A dream depicted on a cocktail napkin comes true in Kelowna – Okanagan
It was four years ago when KF Aerospace founder Barry Lapointe pitched an idea on a cocktail napkin.
That vision and cocktail napkin dream came to fruition on Tuesday when a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opened the doors of the KF Aerospace Center for Excellence at Kelowna International Airport.
“To think it was four years ago, Barry and I sat down in the restaurant down the road here, and he presented me with a concept of this actual building,” the KF Aerospace executive director recalled, Paula Quinn, about this meeting.
“There’s a catch, he said, I want it to look like an airplane.”
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“It’s amazing and, you know, I’m not sure there’s a place like this anywhere in North America,” said Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, who was one dignitaries present at the inauguration event.
The 60,000 square foot Center of Excellence is Lapointe’s heritage project, which many say came to fruition very quickly.
Lapointe, however, said it needed to be finished even sooner.
“It’s not as quick as I thought it would be,” Lapointe said. “I was hoping this was done for our 50th anniversary.
“We have been here for 52 years. I was hoping to do this two years ago, but then COVID hit.
The massive wooden building, which looks like an airplane from the sky, includes two hangars with a collection of rare aircraft, including a mosquito fighter plane – one of the few in the world.
The Center of Excellence also features an interactive exhibit detailing the rich aviation history of the Okanagan, as well as the careers offered by the industry.
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The upper part of the building includes an airfield observation gallery and conference facilities for events.
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“The opportunity to host events, learn more about the history of aviation here in the Okanagan, and inspire people to want to grow the industry even more… the benefits, thanks to the Center of Excellence, are immense,” Basran told Global News.
For Lapointe, attracting young people to the aeronautics industry played a major role in the start of the Center of Excellence project.
“We’re losing them to high-tech companies, computer companies,” Lapointe said. “Flight and aviation run in your blood, it really does.
“It’s a passion that I want to instill in the young people of today and that they know that there is a great future for it and a great opportunity for it.”
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KF Aerospace has a long history at the airport, spanning over five decades.
“When you look at the growth of the airport and the growth of KF Aerospace, they’re very, very similar,” said Sam Samaddar, manager of Kelowna International Airport.
“Their success was our success. Our success has been their success.
Samaddar said KF Aerospace is the envy of many other airports in Canada.
“Every airport in Canada would like to have a KF at their airport,” Samaddar told Global news. “And believe me, many airports tried to steal KF from the economy.”
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The company started as an aircraft repair business, but grew and expanded over the years to include cargo services, technical maintenance and training for Air Force pilots, just to name a few of the added services.
The company now employs nearly 1,000 people.
The new KF Aerospace Center of Excellence, located at 5800 Lapointe Drive, is a non-profit organization created to promote the aerospace industry, locally and nationally.
Its doors will open to the public on Wednesday, August 31, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A minimum donation of $10 per family or $5 per person is required.
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