Small company with a big task
By Mark O'Brien
December 2014
...Maintaining a C-5 Galaxy is a lot like taking care of an old house. You never know
what you’ll find when you start looking for problems -- corrosion, cracks and other
snafus.
...“You pull off one part that you think you’re going to repair and you find a lot more
problems,” said Tony Fiorentino, president of Marianna Airmotive, which repairs
venerable C-5s for the U.S. Air Force.
...The company, which had 18 employees in the late 1990s, now has about 125
working in Cantonment, 10 miles north of downtown Pensacola.
...Fiorentino is proud that his company has the people who can handle the often
complicated work. It can be a real challenge.
...“It’s a thrill that we can do this,” he said. “It’s great to see something come in here
all beat to hell and our engineering department and other employees can develop
and repair and do all the ancillary work that needs to be done” to meet Air Force
approval.

On the job
...The company, which got its start in 1968 in Marianna, Fla., moved to Cantonment
in 1989 and took over an old, largely vacant Boise Cascade Co. plywood facility to
meet growing Air Force contracts.
...The work began with inlet cowls, but the assignments expanded as the company
showed the Air Force it could do much more.
...Now Marianna Airmotive overhauls, remanufactures and fabricates parts for the C-
5, the largest airlifter made in the United States. Built by Lockheed Martin, it can
carry 265,000 pounds of cargo 4,000 miles, holding up to five helicopters on military
missions that included Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. C-5s also have
been used worldwide for humanitarian missions in the wake of hurricanes, tsunamis
and earthquakes.
...“Nothing else (made in the United States) can haul what they can haul,” said
Fiorentino about the Galaxy.
...With that kind of age and workload on the aircraft, it’s not hard to imagine the
stress on parts and the patchwork of field repairs that require more permanent fixes.
And the C-5 is so old that replacement parts sometimes don’t exist, requiring
Marianna to make new ones.
...“You’re always chasing your tail,” said Fiorentino as he walked through the plant,
introducing a visitor to employees working on doors, frames and other parts in need
of overhaul.
...In most cases, Fiorentino said, “it’s a major, major overhaul. Some stuff is beyond
repair.”
...Marianna Airmotive keeps three aeronautical engineers busy working on repair
designs, which must be approved by the Air Force before they can be executed.
...“The engineering department is what really keeps us alive,” says Fiorentino, who
first came to Pensacola as a naval flight student.
...After 20 years as a lawyer, he closed his practice in the late 1990s and bought an
interest in Marianna Airmotive, bringing him back to his first love, aviation. He’s been
hooked on aircraft since he was a kid growing up near an airport in Elkins, W. Va.
Now he even owns his own airfield in Pensacola, Coastal Airport, where 10-12 aircraft
are based.

The future
...The Marianna Airmotive plant took a beating from Hurricane Ivan in 2004, but the
rebuilding inspired the company to make itself storm-resistant as well as to enhance
existing facilities.
...It covers 160,000 square feet of space for production, warehouse, sheet metal,
bonding, paint, welding, autoclave and manufacturing. The redesign took some
clever steps, building offices, for example, in the space over old railroad tracks left
from the Boise Cascade days.
...The sections and parts are trucked into the facility, though workers can also travel
to locations where the C-5s are located to do on-site work.
...Workers have all the modern equipment, a computer-controlled cutting machine, a
FaroArm for measurement. Still, they sometimes prefer to put the high-tech tools
aside and work by hand for up-close jobs that require the human touch.
...The typical employee has been at Marianna Airmotive for more than nine years,
giving the company “a very steady workforce,” Fiorentino says. It’s a blend of ex-
military and civilian workers, and Fiorentino is eager to win new contracts with the Air
Force on the C-5 and other aircraft. That could include working on the Lockheed C-
130, P3 or other similar aircraft.
...Fiorentino says the company and its workforce have a proven track record for
technical capability, quality precision, attention to detail and thorough documentation.
...“We’d like to branch out and enter other areas,” he said.

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