Layoffs expected as airplane engine company leaves Mattituck

05/20/2012 10:00 AM |

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | An employee works on an aircraft’s landing gear in this 2005 photo.

Teledyne Technologies is closing its airplane engine overhaul facility at Mattituck Airbase on June 15, a decision that will put about 20 people out of work.

Facility director Michael Gifford said he delivered the news to employees last Thursday after three to four “very difficult” years in the general aviation business proved poisonous for the welfare of Teledyne’s local operation.

“It was not an easy decision to make and we very much regret the closure,” he said. “But in these economic times, especially since 2009, it’s become very difficult to sustain the two facilities we run with the current business level.”

The company’s only other facility is in Fairhope, Ala.

Mr. Gifford said the company, which earned an international reputation for overhauling piston-driven aircraft engines, has seen its business fall by half. Where it once worked on 10 to 12 engines a week — and even more during a boom time in the 1990s — that number has dropped to five or six.

Mr. Gifford said Teledyne plans to consolidate all operations at its Alabama facility.

“We’ve been doing everything we can to help our employees seek other employment,” he said. Some have worked there for more than 40 years, he noted.

“Our two main concerns are our employees and our customers,” he said.

The company does not own the building but leases it from the Wickham family, which built the airbase on a former potato field after World War II.

The company that became Mattituck Services began in 1946 when Parker Wickham of Mattituck, who had overhauled airplane engines during the war, converted part of his family’s New Suffolk Avenue potato farm into a small airport and an aircraft engine rebuilding shop.

The Wickhams sold the engine business in 1984 but bought it back four years later. Teledyne acquired it in 1999.

A year ago Teledyne Continental Motors and Mattituck Services, Teledyne’s subsidiary were both acquired by the Chinese firm Technify Motors as part of a $186 million cash deal. Technify Motors builds fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

In a 2005 Suffolk Times profile on Mattituck Services, a sales manager for a Ronkonkoma aircraft rental and flight school described its workmanship as “one of the best in the country, if not the world.”

At that time the business was repairing about 500 engines a year, half as many as 20 years earlier. The firm’s workforce had dropped by about a third to 45 people.

“That’s very unfortunate, they’ve always been a very good employer,” Responding to the news of the company’s closure, Supervisor Scott Russell said, “That facility was known throughout the world for its expertise. Couple that with the closing of the Capital One center and that’s really, really devastating for Southold Town.”

Mr. Russell mentioned that the Southold economic advisory committee has been looking at various industries and options to encourage development of meaningful employment, balanced with land preservation and other land use goals.

The committee isn’t banking on a large corporation to relocate to Southold anytime soon but, he said, “We think we can attract small businesses in the 15- to 20-job range.” He added the committee will soon be meeting with the broker handling the Capital One building to discuss the future of the Route 25 property.

gvolpe@timesreview.com