New Beechcraft Will Retain and Expand Services Division

 - February 2, 2013, 1:15 AM

The downsized Beechcraft that is expected to emerge from bankruptcy protection at the end of this month will retain and expand its services division, two senior Hawker Beechcraft Services (HBS) executives told AIN. There are no plans at this time to spin off Hawker Beechcraft Services into a separately owned company.

“There is some confusion in the marketplace,” following the closure of three company-owned service facilities earlier this year in San Antonio; Mesa, Ariz.; and Little Rock, Ark., acknowledged Christi Tannahill, the company’s vice president of global parts and services. Tannahill said those closures were more a function of an efficiency realignment than anything specifically related to the bankruptcy, noting that the overall volume of Hawker Beechcraft Services business declined by only 5 percent in the past year. “It was more of a strategic decision,” she said.

Hawker Beechcraft Services continues to operate 10 owned facilities in Chester, UK; Toluca and Monterrey, Mexico; and in the U.S. in Atlanta (PDK and FTY); Houston; Indianapolis; Tampa; Wichita; and Wilmington, Del. Collectively, the service centers employ 1,000 and process 300 aircraft per week. Cumulatively, Hawker Beechcraft Services has 600,000 sq ft of hangar floor space, excluding backshops and paint space. Additionally, the company has authorized 100 independent service centers. “We still have plenty of capacity to take care of our customers,” Tannahill said.

That includes fractional ownership company NetJets, a large operator of HS125-series Hawkers. Service on those aircraft had been performed primarily at Little Rock, but that capacity is being shifted to Wichita, where the Hawker Beechcraft Services facility will be expanded to handle the increased workload. “From a capacity standpoint and overall customer volume, [Little Rock] was not one of our larger facilities,” Tannahill said.

Tannahill said all of the centers will continue to support the worldwide fleet of 36,000 Hawker Beechcraft aircraft and honor company warranties on all piston, turboprop and Hawker 400 and HS125-series aircraft. Hawker Beechcraft has petitioned the court for warranty relief on its Premier and Hawker 4000 jets as part of the bankruptcy reorganization and the company plans to shutter or sell its jet aircraft lines. Nevertheless, Tannahill said Hawker Beechcraft Services will continue to support those two aircraft “as we do today.”

Upgrade Programs Continue

Post-bankruptcy, the company will also continue to pursue certification of its Hawker 400 and 800-series XPR upgrade programs and invest in its service facilities, said Brian Howell, Hawker Beechcraft Services vice president of aftermarket sales. “We feel good about the market acceptance of these programs and we haven’t slowed down at all,” said Howell. Hawker Beechcraft Services is continuing to work with partner Sierra Industries on the 400XPR program, which replaces key aircraft systems such as engines and instruments with more modern alternatives–a pair of Williams International FJ44-4A-32s (flat rated to 3,200 pounds of thrust each) and the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite. Sierra is fabricating modification kits to be installed by Hawker Beechcraft Services. The modification also includes Hawker Beechcraft-designed winglets. The 800XPR package offers winglets, Pro Line 21 avionics or the original Honeywell panel and replacement of the original Honeywell TFE731-5BR with -50 engines.

“Both XPR programs are going head-on into certification,” Howell said. He added that the programs represent examples of Hawker Beechcraft Services’ investment in “projects that give new technology to all of our aircraft, and people should expect to see that continue,” including with the King Air line of turboprops. Hawker Beechcraft Services unveiled a new program at the 2012 NBAA Convention to equip Pro Line 21-equipped King Air B200s with various Raisbeck modifications, BLR winglets and the Blackhawk XP52 engine upgrade. The first aircraft so modified is nearing completion at Hawker Beechcraft Services Wichita.

Network Improvements

Beyond specific programs, Tannahill said that Hawker Beechcraft Services continues to invest in training and facilities, pointing out that the company boosted training expenditures by 15 percent last year and is continuing its maintenance training relationship with FlightSafety. The “MX Pro” training combines traditional classroom instruction with high-tech visualization and hands-on aircraft learning. It is designed to meet continued on-the-job training to satisfy evolving EASA requirements and uses leading-edge tools developed by FlightSafety, including desktop simulators and graphical flight simulators.

Over the last three years, Hawker Beechcraft Services has invested $22 million in plant and equipment, $5 million of that coming last year. “We will continue to evaluate our service organization and worldwide parts distribution and continue to invest in the right places as it makes sense.”

Tannahill said Hawker Beechcraft Services currently maintains $300 million in parts inventory and 35,000 part numbers at its North American distribution center near DFW Airport in Grapevine, Texas; another $50 million at its U.S. service centers; $22 million at its distribution centers in Dubai, London and Singapore; and $3 million at remote stocking locations in Beijing and Johannesburg. Its customer support center processed 40,000 calls last year and took more than $53 million in sales orders. The average call hold time by the end of 2012 was 34 seconds, according to Tannahill.

Most of Hawker Beechcraft Services’ suppliers continued to work with it during the bankruptcy, Tannahill said. “Our suppliers are engaged and are supporting the current production line as well as our products in the field. It is in their best interests to continue to support our customers, and we will continue to offer warranty support on our Hawker 400 and 700, 800 and 900 lines because we have that relationship with our suppliers. When we emerge [from bankruptcy] at the end of February we will have a strong relationship with our suppliers moving forward.”