A 12-day visit to China by a trade delegation from Wichita got off to a somewhat rocky start on Sunday when a scheduled meeting with Hawker Beechcraft suitor Superior Aviation Beijing was cancelled abruptly due to “sensitivity of the ongoing negotiations.” Superior Aviation submitted a bid in July to purchase bankrupt Hawker Beechcraft for $1.79 billion but an exclusivity period for negotiations granted by the court expired on September 1.
A business delegation from Wichita, headed by Mayor Carl Brewer, plans an extensive trip to the People’s Republic of China, and the possible sale of Hawker Beechcraft to Superior Aviation Beijing is likely to be a subject of discussions there. While examining business relationships and renewal of the sister-city relationship with Kaifeng, Brewer said he expects to meet with Superior Aviation chairman Cheng Shenzong on Sunday.
Bombardier Learjet workers in Wichita represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) went on strike early yesterday morning, following a vote on Saturday to reject a proposed labor agreement. Members of IAM Local 639 overwhelmingly rejected Bombardier’s proposal, with 79 percent opposed to the five-year offer. An equal number of union members authorized a strike, setting the stage for the walkout yesterday.
A Bombardier Learjet 45XR was officially the first jet to land during the dedication of the Rooks County Regional Airport in Stockton, Kan., on Saturday. Kansas governor Sam Brownback was on hand to inaugurate the new business and general aviation airport. “We are honored to have been able to participate in the dedication of the Rooks County Regional Airport,” said Learjet vice president and general manager Ralph Acs. The airport has a single 5,000-foot runway (18/36) and offers 24-hour fueling services.
Hawker Beechcraft, which is in the process of restructuring under U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, posted a $33.8 million net loss on sales totaling $149.9 million last month. In documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York earlier this week, the company reported spending $1.5 million on restructuring costs, $5.4 million on reorganization items and $8.8 million on research and development.
As progress continues on the construction of the first flight-test Bombardier Learjet 85, the airframer said this week that it sees a niche for a smaller follow-on model of the all-composite midsize jet. “I think there is an opportunity between the 75 and the 85,” Learjet vice president and general manager Ralph Acs told journalists this week during a media event. “Our entire notion all along has been that you can come up with a platform and then you spin that to other things.”
The Learjet 60XR was featured in a recent episode of National Geographic Channel’s Megafactories TV series. In this episode, the assembly of businessman David Morgan’s $14 million Learjet 60XR is highlighted to tell the story of how each business jet is assembled at the Wichita plant, as well as how Bombardier Learjet has reinvented itself to optimize production. The film crew captured how the production line runs and the technical expertise and monumental logistics behind each aircraft.
The Learjet 85, the first all-composite Part 25 business jet, remains on track for certification and entry into service next year, according to Bombardier. “Four test aircraft are in various stages of production,” the company noted, and shipment of the first pressure vessel from Bombardier’s factory in Querétaro, Mexico, to the final-assembly plant in Wichita was imminent (in mid-July). At the Querétaro factory, technicians completed construction of the first Learjet 85’s wing internal structure and the wing was moved to the final-assembly position for installation of the wing plank.
In response to a request by Hawker Beechcraft seeking a 120-day extension of the exclusive period during which only the company can file a reorganization plan, a judge in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York today agreed to maintain exclusivity through the end of February.
Hawker Beechcraft will not exit bankruptcy by year-end as originally projected, if the court allows the Wichita-based aircraft manufacturer’s request for a 120-day extension filed late Thursday. A court hearing on the extension request is scheduled for August 30.