Airplane Manufacturer Moving to Elizabethtown

Phillip "Slim" Thompson and staff. (Sovereign photo)

Aviation management company Sovereign Aerospace will invest $4.15 million to manufacture, sell, and service personal aircraft in Elizabethtown, Gov. Roy Cooper announced this week. This first U.S. manufacturing plant will bring 33 new jobs to Bladen County.

“N.C. continues to garner national attention as a leading state for aerospace manufacturing,” said Cooper. “With dynamic veteran-owned companies like Sovereign Aerospace expanding in Bladen County, our state has great potential to be a leader in aviation worldwide.”

The company’s website says that Sovereign was founded in part as a Christian mission to help veterans. Founded by retired Air Force veteran Phillip “Slim” Thompson, Sovereign Aerospace was established in 2021 to provide pilot training, consulting services, aircraft brokering, and general aviation maintenance. While the company supports clients and entrepreneurial aviators through a wide-range of services, at its core, Sovereign Aerospace strives to help veterans find community, learn new skills, and transition to civilian life.

The Moore County-based company has several subsidiaries, including UAS Drone, Pinehurst Aces, Sandhills Fliers, Pinehurst Aviation Medical, Pinehurst Aviation Services, Veteran Transition Corps, Entrepreneurial Alliance and Sandhills Avionics.

Sovereign Aerospace began managing operations at the Curtis L. Brown, Jr. Airport in 2021. The firm will locate the production facility for Vulcanair V1.0 aircraft, an Italian high-wing trainer, and personal aircraft. The site will manufacture, sell, and provide onsite maintenance of the high-demand Vulcanair aircraft. Sovereign Aerospace will be the first tenant of Bladen County’s new aviation park.

“Sovereign Aerospace is excited to be an integral part in the development of the Elizabethtown Aerospace Industrial Park in Bladen County,” said Ken Hadaway, COO of Sovereign Aerospace. “Our partnership and collaboration with Ameravia, Inc., the sole-source importer of Vulcanair aircraft in the United States, has proven to be the cornerstone for expanding the footprint of aircraft manufacturing in the state. We intend to engage the community with opportunities that exist today within the aviation industry. Through aviation training and job placement, we can mitigate the national shortfall of pilots and mechanics and help transition veterans and exiting active-duty military into careers within the aviation industry for anyone who is willing to pursue their dreams.”

“As a small and veteran-owned business, Sovereign Aerospace embodies many of the values we seek to support N.C.’s economic prosperity,” said N.C. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “The company’s commitment to training and employing highly skilled veterans mirrors our own commitment to growing and further developing our workforce as outlined in the First in Talent strategic economic development plan.”

New positions created by Sovereign Aerospace will include inspectors, mechanics, technicians, and administrative staff. Salaries will vary by position; however, the average annual wage is $56,061, exceeding the Bladen County average of $41,913. These new jobs could potentially create an annual payroll impact of more than $1.85 million for the region.

A performance-based grant of $100,000 from the One NC Fund will help Sovereign Aerospace establish its manufacturing facility. The One NC Fund provides financial assistance to local governments to help attract economic investment and create jobs. Companies receive no money upfront and must meet job creation and capital investment targets to qualify for payment. All One NC grants require matching participation from local governments and any award is contingent upon that condition being met.

“I am ecstatic to see Sovereign Aerospace expanding in Bladen County,” said State Sen. Brent Jackson. “Their mission to empower our state’s veterans and tenacity to identify new opportunities to grow their business is to be celebrated. This expansion will foster well-paying jobs and opportunities in Bladen County and the surrounding region.”

“Many congratulations to Sovereign Aerospace,” said State Rep. William D. Brisson. “I have been watching this company since they first launched and am amazed by the positive impact they have made in our community to help aerospace take-off in Bladen County.”

In addition to the N.C. Department of Commerce and the Economic Development Partnership of N.C., other key partners in this project N.C. General Assembly, the N.C. Community College System, N.C. Commerce’s Division of Workforce Solutions, N.C. Transportation’s Division of Aviation, GoldenLEAF Foundation, N.C.’s Southeast, N.C. Electric Cooperative, Four County Electric Membership Corporation, Bladen County, Bladen County Economic Development Commission, Bladen’s Bloomin’ Agri-Industrial Inc., Elizabethtown Airport Economic Development Commission, and the Town of Elizabethtown.

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Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at [email protected].