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Originally published March 12, 2012 at 4:24 PM | Page modified March 13, 2012 at 6:28 AM

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Astronics to expand in Kirkland, hire more workers

Astronics builds designs and builds power units for aircraft seats.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

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Eastside aviation-electronics company Astronics plans to move to a new facility just 1.5 miles up the road, from Redmond to Kirkland, taking advantage of a cheap sale from the Michael R. Mastro bankruptcy to buy room for expansion.

Astronics expects to break ground Wednesday on a project to join two existing shell buildings into one finished facility that will house its engineering and manufacturing operations. Move-in is planned for December.

Though Astronics is headquartered in New York, the local Advanced Electronic Systems (AES) division provides more than half the company's revenue, said Mark Peabody, vice president and general manager of Astronics AES.

AES employs more than 300 people locally designing and assembling power units for aircraft seats.

It supplies one integrated box that powers the in-flight entertainment system and distributes in-seat power to the proliferation of laptops, phones and other electronic devices that passengers plug in.

Panasonic and Thales, the two leading in-flight-entertainment system suppliers, are key customers. Every Boeing 787 Dreamliner, for example, comes with a system from one of those companies and includes in-seat power boxes from AES.

As more airlines introduce Wi-Fi connectivity, even on smaller domestic jets, demand for in-seat power is growing. And with Boeing and Airbus preparing to dramatically raise production rates, Peabody said AES expects to hire about 45 people this year.

With the lease on its Redmond buildings set to expire, Astronics bought the Kirkland property, including the two buildings and an extra 6 acres for potential expansion later, for $5.2 million.

Creditor Union Bank foreclosed on the two buildings, with 92,000 square feet of space, during the Mastro bankruptcy proceedings.

Mastro, now a fugitive, had paid $5.65 million in 2008 just for the land. The most recent county tax assessment valued the property at $13 million.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963

or dgates@seattletimes.com

Staff reporter Eric Pryne

contributed to this report.

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