University of the Fraser Valley

Repurposed UFV building takes flight

Repurposed UFV building takes flight

Educational, historical, and even residential value remains in equipment leaving UFV’s Aerospace Centre.

It can be a grinding chore: tackling a space that needs a cathartic clean-out. Confronting a garage or storage room containing keepsakes no longer meeting changing needs can be a daunting task. The purge may be required — too many things in too small a space — but often the will fails when items are sentimental or difficult to physically move. Disposing of an old lawn mower or too many shoes is one challenge, but next-level complexity kicks in when trying to find a new home for a massive jet engine, a helicopter, or a moth-balled commercial airliner — the entire 40-meter-long aircraft.

This was the epic challenge UFV Project Manager Remco Bergman stared down when he joined UFV in January 2023. UFV’s Aerospace Centre on the grounds of the Abbotsford International Airport needed a major clean up to best accommodate classes and programs.

There are several areas of study from UFV’s Faculty of Applied and Technical Studies and that have claim to the building, so the clean-up process is essential.

This evolution means the removal of several decades’ worth of aviation-related equipment – including planes, parts of planes, a helicopter, and countless tools and machinery headquartered in the hangar.

Bergman was aware of the value stored here – not just the monetary value, but also the educational and historical worth. He embarked on the process of checking in with UFV departments that might need items for instruction. He found an ally in UFV’s supply chain department and following their asset disposal process, he moved on to selling pieces to post-secondaries with aviation programs, and finally looked at donating to high schools or others that might need tools or equipment for skills training.

“First and foremost we wanted to make sure internal departments at UFV had the opportunity to acquire equipment they might need. Then we looked at our peer educational institutes and had some luck there. Ultimately, we want to make sure we don’t create more waste but provide value to those who might need these items.”

In some cases, the aviation assets no longer hold educational potential, but Bergman has a creative streak and a penchant for leaving no stone unturned, so he picked up the phone and started making calls: gauging interest with organizations who might see the historical value of some of the aircraft. He even pitched parts of planes as potential props to the movie industry.

Bergman was intentional in ensuring the sustainability of the divestment process. He looked at reusing, recycling, or repurposing items. In every case, the movement of inventory had to be done in ways that adhered to stringent processes and rules around remediation and disposal of certain materials.

“It’s pretty hard to responsibly remove an item like a 727 aircraft,” says Bergman. “I mean, it can’t fly, so how do you get it off the property? Maybe someone wants it as a tiny home – there is one in Costa Rica like that. Buyers are one hundred percent responsible for removing pieces and doing so in a way that leaves our building and the grounds around us pristine and to code.”

The market for this type of equipment is global and now that UFV departments and others have had the first chance to acquire equipment, the next phase involves contracting an auction house who will present this sale to different markets.

“There is value here,” says Bergman, “the key is to find the market, the person, the firm that can see and utilize these assets.”

The man tasked with this giant-sized clean-up also sees the potential revenue generation possibilities for the university.

“Absolutely we need to make money as we make room for new and existing programs. Students need the space so why not find buyers and contribute to the bottom line.”

He adds that he believes the auction will speed up the divestment of these assets.

“We are ahead of schedule and when the auctioneer takes over, we could really start to see these assets fly off our shelves.”

A welcome helping hand in the heavy lifting and likely the only way some of these old-school flying machines will take flight one final time.