Braly goes, Chen in as Sino Swearingen boss

 - May 6, 2008, 8:48 AM

Dr. Carl Chen, former chairman, president and CEO of AASI, suddenly replaced Jack Braly less than a week after the NBAA Convention last month as president and CEO of Sino Swearingen, developer of the long-delayed SJ30-2 business jet.

While Sino Swearingen officials “praised” Braly for his “accomplishments” as CEO, they would not provide reasons for the abrupt change in the company’s top leadership. The SJ30-2 program has suffered financial problems and one delay after another since its inception more than a decade ago. A one-year slip in the expected certification date–from the end of this year to the end of next year–was announced at EBACE in May.

Under Chen’s leadership, AASI projects also suffered delays. The company received certification in 1994 for an unpressurized version of the Jetcruzer 450 turboprop single, but the airplane never went into production. Then, earlier this year, AASI’s board of directors elected a new top management team, replacing Chen with Roy Norris, who had held senior posts at Raytheon Aircraft, Cessna and Gulfstream. Not long after he took over at AASI, Norris pulled the plug on the drawn-out development program of the Jetcruzer 500 turboprop single and merged AASI with then-moribund and near-bankrupt Mooney Aircraft to form Mooney Aerospace Group. Norris resigned from Mooney in August.

In an announcement released last month by San Antonio-based Sino Swearingen, Chen said, “With new funding commitments in place, we will soon make history in delivering the first entirely new corporate jet from a startup company in more than 40 years.” However, vying for that honor are several other startups, such as Eclipse Aviation with its Eclipse 500 superlight twinjet, also scheduled to receive certification by the end of next year.

The “funding commitments” referred to by Chen are coming from existing shareholders, according to the company.

Sino Swearingen said Braly announced his “intention to step down” during a meeting of the company’s board of directors just days after the NBAA show. Braly, head of Beech Aircraft in the 1980s and president of Sino Swearingen since 1996, was unavailable for comment.

Sino Swearingen was formed in 1995, originating from a partnership between Swearingen Aircraft and Sino Aerospace of Taiwan. SJ30-2s are reportedly being assembled at the company’s Martinsburg, W. Va. facility. According to the company, the airplanes will “be in position to be delivered at the end of next year and be all but finished when certification is received.” Sino Swearingen claims orders for more than 150 aircraft. In June last year it said it had orders for 175.

An aerospace engineer by training, Dr. Chen received his Ph.D. from the California Institute of Technology. His business management training came from the Harvard Business Graduate School. In addition, Chen holds a master’s degrees in control engineering from UCLA, and in aeronautical engineering from the University of West Virginia.

“We are very pleased to have Dr. Chen join our team,” said Chuen-Huei Tsai, chairman of the board of Sino Swearingen Aircraft Corp. “His extensive experience in aircraft certification and management makes Dr. Chen the right person to lead Sino Swearingen at this stage in the company’s development.”