Gulf Air Group has entered a lease agreement with the South Alabama Regional Airport Authority to operate a new division, Covington Maintenance Center, in the twin hangars at the airport.

Gulf Air Group is taking over a lease the SARA Authority had with Yulista, that was set to expire in December. Gulf Air has a five-year lease on the hangars, with options for three five-year renewals. 

Tim Rhyne, president and CEO of Gulf Air Group, explained to the airport authority Tuesday that the company is opening Covington Maintenance Center at SARA. 

The company has two vertical tiers related to L-382 aircraft, the civilian version of C130s. Gulf Air maintains a fleet of four L-382s with which it provides global air cargo services. Theirs is the second-largest privately-operated fleet of L-382s in the world.

At Covington Maintenance Center, the company also will provide maintenance services for L-382s. 

The company expects to hire 21 to 22 full-time employees for the local facility. 

“We don’t do the ebb and flow of 50 employees this week, but only 10 next week,” he said. “We want to ramp up with good, steady, well-paying jobs, and we are on a path that helps us do that.”

The company plans to host a job fair at the facility later this month.

SARA Executive Director Jed Blackwell said the company has a financial incentive in its lease agreement to hire local employees. 

Rhyne said as Covington Maintenance Center hires employees, it will provide some training on site, but expects to hire people who have completed an accredited training program and/or military training.