There’s new interest in the city-owned aircraft maintenance base at Duluth International Airport. 

On Friday, the Duluth Economic Development Authority (DEDA) provided a private maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) firm the right to lease the facility next year. The potential lessor, Boresight, is seeking a contract with the U.S. Airforce to maintain F-16 fighter jets in the base, which previously had been used in a similar capacity by AAR Corp. to maintain passenger aircraft.

To bid on the work, Boresight is required to have in hand a commitment that they have will have the physical facilities to fulfill the contract. If Boresight is not awarded the bid, the DEDA agreement will expire. 

DEDA commissioners approved the option by unanimous vote during a special virtual meeting.

When originally built by Northwest Airlines, the massive facility employed about 400 persons in high-paying aircraft maintenance jobs. The property was turned over to the City of Duluth in 2007 as a stipulation in NWA's bankruptcy settlement. 

AAR used the facilith from 2012 until May 2020, , when company officials said the COVID-19 pandemic has substantially changed the market for commercial aircraft maintenance as people stopped flying.