CARO (WJRT) - (03/01/17) - It's a well kept and mile high secret at Tuscola County Airport in Caro, Michigan.
"Well, we're building airplanes, plain and simple," said Steve O'Connor, co-owner of Midwest Sky Sports.
Midwest Sky Sports is busy making two and four seat, lightweight, single engine planes - to be exact. The company is the primary U.S.-based builder for a corporation called the Airplane Factory, located in South Africa.
"When you're in the sport market world, there's a lot going on throughout the world and a lot of connections that can be made, but Johannesburg, South Africa to Caro, Michigan, that's pretty funny," Steve said.
In 2017, his crew is aiming to build eight to 12 planes out of this hangar.
"They're about 800 to 900 man hours. We can put one out in about two to two and a half months, fully painted," Steve said.
The planes are built for private use by pilots across the country and for flight schools. The two-seaters typically sell at a base price of just over $135,000.
"Some of the most expensive cars are hand-built cars. These are hand-built airplanes. There's nothing production about them," Steve said.
Right now, Midwest Sky Sports employs six to seven people, but that number could grow in the near future.
“We're hoping to ramp this thing up. I'm hoping to see a force of 20 to 30 in here if we can start getting the sales and airplanes rolling. So the sky is the limit, really,” Steve said.
He believes Michigan presents the perfect workforce for a growing aviation industry.
"This is the automotive capital of the world. You get people that are mechanically inclined and we can teach them to do this stuff,” he said.
Most of Midwest Sky Sports crew members fly their own planes, including Steve’s 17-year-old son, Adam. He handles avionics - that's all of the electronics in the airplane. It's an after-school job that's a little different from those of his friends.
“They're working at McDonald's and things like that, and nothing against that, that's the starting point, I'm just happy to have this opportunity," Adam said.
Along with that opportunity comes a commitment to air safety. It's Midwest Sky Sport's top priority.
"We're the first ones to fly them. We put our lives on the line before anyone else," Steve said.
Besides building in Caro, Midwest Sky Sports also performs maintenance and repair work on both light sport and experimental planes.
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