Planemakers Invest In Future Despite Economic Turbulence

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Local planemakers are dealing with economic turbulence, as one company announces layoffs just weeks after breaking ground on a new facility.

"We're in a level of turbulence now where we're approaching a lot of storm
clouds and uncertainty of what's going to happen in the market place," said Pete Bunce, CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

Bunce says that in the first nine months of the year, the general aviation industry delivered nearly 3,000 airplanes to customers, about 60 more planes than during the same time-period last year.

Right now, planemakers like Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft are hearing from customers who say they can't take delivery of their planes on schedule.

Cessna spokesman Doug Oliver says very few are canceling orders. It's rare for customers to cancel their orders because they'd be walking away from the large deposits they were required to make when they placed their order.

Oliver says some customers are asking for later deliveries because financing might have dried up, or their company's stock price has fallen and they need to conserve cash.

As a result, planemakers have to scramble to make adjustments.

"When someone defers can you move someone else who was in line forward?" Bunce said.

Companies are seeing if customers with later delivery schedules can take the earlier production slots, which are being delayed.

In the midst of the last aviation downturn, Cessna broke ground on the Citation Service Center, a project worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The investment is paying off for them with more than 5,000 service orders just last year.

Likewise, they're moving forward with the Columbus plant, which could employ 1,000 in about five years.

If local planemakers stop investing in new products for the future just because of economic turbulence now, they could wind up like that once vibrant American industry in Detroit, the automotive industry.

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