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Mainline’s Work Allows Honda Jet Engine Plant to Take Flight

Wed November 21, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Giles Lambertson

Before Honda Corp. can put Burlington, N.C., on the map as the manufacturing center for a heralded new product, the company needs a facility in which to build it.

This fall, Mainline Contracting Co. of Durham, N.C., jump-started the construction that will put the Japanese company in its facility.

Over the course of two hectic months that ended the first of October, Mainline prepared a 90-acre (36 ha) tract where Honda will establish its Honda Aero Inc. headquarters and assemble its new jet aviation engine. The acreage is in the northeast quadrant of the campus of Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport Authority in the central Piedmont region of the state.

Just two of the 90 acres were growing timber in August when the Mainline crews moved onto the site. The trees were quickly harvested and uprooted by company employees; the remainder of the site preparation consisted of changing the topography of the site to Honda’s specifications and creating erosion control structures.

On the surface, that sounds simple enough. Unfortunately, just below the surface of much of the land lurked granite. The $2.7 million contract called for removal of more than 750,000 cu. yd. (573,416 cu m) of earth, which turned out to be rock and dirt — mostly rock, in fact. Some 400,000 cu. yd. (304,000 cu m) of the total overburden was rock.

Given the resistant nature of granite, some blasting was necessary. That work was subbed to a Mocksville, N.C., firm, Carolina Drilling and Blasting, but the blasting crew’s dynamiting was kept to a minimum. Instead, Mainline turned loose some heavy pieces of equipment to gouge and chip away at the strata of rock until fractured material could be loaded into trucks and hauled away.

“We were able to rip a lot using specialty equipment,” said Les Basnight, chief operating officer of Mainline. “We didn’t shoot that much because we were able to rip so much of it.”

A dozer with a ripper sliced through and loosened the granite. A John Deere 200DLC excavator fitted with a hammer sized the resulting slabs of rock to fit into truck beds. Three Liebherr 954 excavators loaded the rock into a fleet of seven John Deere 40-ton (36 t) articulated dump trucks, but the largest piece of equipment loading the cracked slabs of granite was a 54.5-ton (49 t) John Deere 450D excavator.

The 400,000 cu. yd. of rock were carted away, 40 tons (36 t) at a time, to a nearby site on the airport grounds for future use as riprap and other construction material.

Where granite was buried deep enough, the D-8 dozer shaped the top soil and two John Deere 9520 ag-type tractors, the manufacturer’s largest model, skimmed the earth pulling John Deere 1810 18-cu.-yd. (13.6 cu m) scraper pans. Finish work and clean up was accomplished using a smaller JD 650J dozer and a JD 672D motorgrader.

The John Deere machinery, rented and sold, was supplied to Mainline by R.W. Moore Equipment Co. of Raleigh. Gary Christensen is Mainline’s R.W. Moore representative.

The large volume of rock removal was not unforeseen. Even so, the biggest challenge Mainline faced was substantially completing the contract in two months.

“We basically had 60 days to move the dirt and rock,” Basnight said. To accomplish that, Mainline worked its crew of 40 to 50 people in two shifts, 24 hours a day, six days a week, switching on light plants so heavy equipment operators could continue to operate when the sun went down. The double-shift schedule was followed for six weeks.

Mainline started the job Aug. 1 and was contractually obligated to have the work substantially complete by Oct. 1 and entirely complete by Nov. 1. The company finished its work in early October and the first phase of the building erection project began shortly thereafter.

“It went according to plan,” Basnight said. A summer-long drought that has plagued the state and region continued through the fall, so rainy days did not slow down the work. In fact, Mainline had to use water trucks to keep down dust.

Burlington-Alamance Airport Authority manager Dan Danieley concurred that development of the site went off without a hitch. “The project went very smoothly,” he said. “It was a very well managed project.”

The site is just off Interstate 40 on Tucker Street and is the first major development on the authority’s property. The acreage will be conveyed to Honda at a future date, Danieley said.

“We are looking forward to many years of development of this type of project,” the manager said. “It will be good for our children and for our grandchildren.”

The Honda project is just the latest in which Mainline has profited from a close working relationship with R.W. Moore and vice versa.

“They are some kind of fine people,” R.W. Moore President Dan Moore said of his Mainline counterparts, “and I am not just saying that because I do business with them. It is a good, clean, hard-working company. We’re blessed to be able to do business with them.”

Added Christensen, the R.W. Moore sales representative to Mainline: “I’d like to have one more customer just like ’em.”

Moore said the relationship is mutually beneficial because Mainline both rents and buys Moore’s John Deere equipment and “does pretty much everything we do.”

R.W. Moore carries the full line of John Deere equipment – except for some compact machinery – other industry staples and all of the Hitachi line.

Moore sees a good future for his business and for the industry in general, despite the rough spot some residential contractors are experiencing at present.

“We see some contractors starting to suffer, especially people who are 100 percent in residential. They are starting to scale back,” Moore said. “But when you get into our customers doing business in different markets — some utility, some residential, some commercial — they are still running wide open, still growing like weeds. It depends on how a company is set up.”

Mainline is one of the diversified companies. Company President Randy Garrett started Mainline in 1999 along with two other shareholders. Basnight joined the firm in 2004. Each brought into the company an extensive background in the construction industry. The firm employs 340 people and will do about $70 million in business volume this year.

A turnkey site development contactor, Mainline grades, trenches for utility lines, forms curbs and gutters and paves roadways. The company takes on both public and private sector work, specializing in roads, retail shopping centers and residential development and has a design-build division for retail and office buildings. Licensed in five states — North and South Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Alabama — Mainline has 30 to 40 active projects at any one time.

Current projects include Perimeter Woods, a $9 million shopping center in Charlotte, N.C.; a similar-sized project in Union County, N.C., for the county school system; and site work for a $7 million Wal-Mart-anchored shopping center in Durham, N.C.

Honda Aircraft Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honda Motor Co., broke ground in June for its HondaJet headquarters and assembly plant in Guilford County at Piedmont Triad International Airport. Delivery of HondaJets is scheduled for 2010. CEG

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