LAKELAND, Fla. — Draken International helps train the U.S. Air Force for combat, using refurbished fighter jets.
“Fleets of jets from allied nations. We bring them here to the U.S. We regenerate them and then we fly on contract for the Department of Defense, to train the next generation of fighter pilots to be combat ready,” Draken International director of marketing and communications Christina Childs said.
Draken is now closing its facility in Nevada and laying off 100 employees at the Lakeland Linder International Airport location, beginning May 20, after losing a contract with the U.S. Air Force.
“I think it came as a shock, not only to us but also our competitors,” Childs said.
She said all positions are impacted, including avionic and hydraulic technicians and aircraft mechanics.
“There’s a dire and critical need," Director and Chief Instructor at International Aerotech Academy John Detrick said. "The aircraft maintenance technicians in the industry have been aging, like we all do. A lot of them have been taking early retirement."
Detrick said with the growing aerospace industry in Lakeland, aircraft mechanics won't have a hard time landing back on their feet.
“It also depends on whether they have the FAAs aircraft maintenance certification," he said. "If they’re fresh out of the military and they don’t have the licenses, they’re going to have to go to a school like this one, to get the certification."
Draken said some workers will be able to transfer to their other locations in Texas and North Carolina.
“Our HR is working with staffing agencies to help them find work elsewhere," Childs said.