WATERLOO REGION — The massive red-roofed hangar costing $6 million was supposed to bring 90 jobs and a new industry to an airport that’s keen to expand.
Instead it brought homicide detectives, yellow police tape and many questions amid the stunning collapse of an ambitious business plan.
Hangar owner Dellen Millard, 27, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Tim Bosma, 32, a father and Ancaster resident whose burned body was found in Waterloo Region.
Police have not said where Bosma died or where his body was found. The homicide investigation continues at the Region of Waterloo International Airport on Fountain Street North and at a Roseville Road farm.
It all seems unfathomable to Kitchener realtor Bruce Nicholson.
Nicholson, 66, helped sell the farm in North Dumfries to Dellen Millard in 2011. At the same time, he watched the Millard family plan the relocation of their aviation maintenance business to the regional airport from Toronto.
He remembers the accused as a “reasonable guy to talk to, very businesslike in his approach.”
“It surprises me,” Nicholson said. “There was nothing in any indication in my contact with Dellen that he would have been capable of something like this.”
Dellen was “a nice young guy, kind of hit it off with him. We both drove nice pickup trucks so we were talking about our trucks.” Nicholson said Dellen did not put on airs or behave like a child of wealth or privilege.
Nicholson recalls that events moved quickly in the spring of 2011. A few months earlier, Dellen Millard had called Nicholson from 2548 Roseville Rd., dialing the number on the For Sale sign and introducing himself.
Millard explained his interest in the farm, a 46-hectare property with an old barn, but no residence. Nicholson met him to walk the property. Millard eventually explained that he planned to build a house there for himself and his fiancée. “He was discussing, ‘where do you think is a good spot?’ ”
They met several times at the farm, joined sometimes by Dellen’s father Wayne Millard, president of family business Millardair. The father has since passed away.
Nicholson learned that the family was relocating its aviation business from Toronto to the regional airport.
“I often met them at the airport, because they were negotiating at the same time with the management (at the airport) to get a piece of land to build a hangar on,” he recalls.
The Millards would meet with Nicholson at the airport café and afterward meet with others, including airport manager Chris Wood, to discuss hangar plans.
In May 2011, Dellen Millard bought the farm without conditions, a cash sale. It was listed for $899,000 and he purchased it for $835,000 from an older man who had raised livestock in the barn.
A month later in June 2011, Millardair finalized a site plan agreement with municipal governments and applied for a building permit for a 51,516-square-foot hangar at the northwest corner of the airport, valued at $6.4 million. The building permit was approved in July 2011.
The firm wanted a new home from which to maintain jetliners. Airport manager Wood was instrumental in landing the facility, according to a report in aviation magazine Canadian Skies published last August.
“Geographically, the airport is well situated because it’s close to Toronto,” Wayne Millard told the magazine. “Also, we chose to come here because it’s nice to deal with an airport authority that understands aviation operations. Chris Wood looks at things through the eyes of an operator as well as those of an airport manager.”
Wood isn’t talking today nor is regional government, citing the ongoing homicide investigation.
According to Canadian Skies, Millardair planned to maintain Boeing 737s and progress to Airbus A320s and Boeing 757s. It was to be the ambitious start of bigger things to come for that corner of the airport. Wood hoped to further expand airport activity by seeking a fleet of corporate aircraft to set up nearby.
The Millardair hangar was declared fit for occupancy in February 2012, built by Aveiro Constructors of Dorchester. It’s not clear if any jetliner work was ever done there.
Transport Canada did not approve maintenance work until months later on Nov. 1, 2012. The federal certificate allowed the firm to perform maintenance on aircraft components such as engines.
Wayne Millard died in late 2012, leaving Dellen to take over the aviation business. The company soon asked Transport Canada to cancel its maintenance certificate, effective last Feb. 15. “The company requested that their certificate be cancelled following their decision to cease operations,” spokesperson Tina Morris said.
Tim Bosma disappeared May 6 while taking two men for a test drive in a truck he was trying to sell online. Police announced Tuesday that his burned body had been found. Two or more suspects are believed to be at large.
“It just strikes me as such a sad situation on all sides,” said Nicholson. He’s the brother of Dave Nicholson, a Waterloo Regional Police officer who drowned in 1998 trying to save a boy who drowned at the Parkhill dam in Cambridge.
Nicholson had no contact with the Millard family after selling the farm, but watched their massive hangar under construction. “I remember being out at the airport and seeing it going up and thinking ‘Wow, that’s quite a hangar.’ ”
He contacted police Monday when he realized his connection to the accused. “Obviously, something went very wrong somewhere,” he said.