Aircraft firm sees changes

A San Luis Obispo-based manufacturer of unmanned aircraft for the U.S. Air Force and other clients is undergoing several changes, including layoffs.

After moving into a larger facility earlier this year, the local firm’s Arkansas-based parent company, ChandlerMay, changed AeroMech Engineering Inc.’s name to AME Unmanned Air Systems.

About the same time, ChandlerMay also moved AME division vice president John Purvis into AME’s president and chief executive officer position.

Jay McConville previously held the spot. He is now serving as AME’s chairman of the board and as an executive vice president at ChandlerMay.

Not all requests for reasons behind the changes were returned.

ChandlerMay spokesman Steve May said AME is being restructured “to account for some contract changes” with the U.S. government.

Details on what those contract changes are or when the restructuring began were not disclosed.

May also wouldn’t confirm that the restructuring meant layoffs, but several sources have confirmed that as many as 20 people lost their jobs. In November, AME management said the local firm had 100 employees.

May cited a shift in focusing on more unmanned systems and a move to better position the company “for both current conditions and future growth,” among the reasons for the changes.

Purvis could not be reached for comment.

AME, which specializes in manufacturing unmanned aircraft that assist the military in surveillance missions and the computer systems that guide them, was founded in 1999 in a Los Osos garage by Cal Poly graduates Thomas Akers and Norm Timbs with less than $1,000 of startup cash. It has since delivered more than 1,500 aircraft to U.S. and allied forces.

Earlier this year, the firm moved into its new, roughly 80,000-square-foot corporate headquarters at 125 Venture Drive in San Luis Obispo.

In 2008, the company employed 85 people, claimed $10 million in revenue and operated in 45,000 square feet.

ChandlerMay Inc. bought a 51 percent ownership stake in AeroMech in August 2009. The company expanded in 2009 and 2010, increasing its staff this year by more than 10 percent, management previously said.

Purvis joined the company in October as vice president for the firm’s Small Tactical Unmanned Air Systems division. He holds bachelor’s and master’s of science degrees in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado.