Hawker Plans Smaller, Wichita-Anchored Company

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UPDATE: Monday, October 29, 2012

The new Beechcraft Corporation will be smaller with fewer employees when it comes out of bankruptcy early next year. That’s what company leaders say at the National Business Aviation Convention in Orlando, Fla.

Call the new Beechcraft Corporation a throwback to the past, a maker of propeller aircraft. The jet division, so much of the company's business of recent decades, is now up for sale.

“Well we will have fewer people, said Chairman Bill Boisture. “We'll be more concentrated in Wichita.”

Fewer employees, says Boisture, because the company is no longer building jets and won’t be when Beechcraft emerges from bankruptcy. What Beechcrafters will continue building are the propeller planes they’ve always been known for: King Airs, Barons, Bonanzas and military trainers. So, is it a fall back or throw forward?

“We've proven, over and over, the products can adapt to new technology,” Boisture said. “So, yes, it's a bit of a throw forward.”

The company has plans for four more models in the coming years. Since the demise of the Superior Aviation China deal, some other possible buyers of the jet division have started talking with Hawker, but Boisture doesn’t expect a buyer to resume jet production in the current facilities in Wichita.

“And I think if the jet production lines are purchased, and the intention is to produce those, then it'll be up to the buyer to determine where,” Boisture said. “Little Rock is not an unlikely site. But it'll be up to the buyer to determine where.”

He says the company plans to make a decision on the sale of the jet division by the end of this year.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Now that Hawker Beechcraft’s future plans don’t include a Chinese owner, it does plan to be anchored to Wichita for years to come. Hawker Chairman Bill Boisture says the company also plans to be smaller.

Just drop the “Hawker” from the name and you’re there. Boisture sees a strong future for what to many is a throwback to the past: Beechcraft Corporation.

"I don't see us going anywhere else," Boisture says.

He sees the new Beechcraft Corporation firmly anchored to the air capital with its expected emergence from bankruptcy early next year. But he acknowledges it will be with a smaller workforce.

“Well, we will have fewer people," he says.

He’s not ready and willing to say what the employment level might be, but he says it will be concentrated in Wichita.

"We've got the installed highly trained labor force there,” he says. “There's a great deal of pride in the products by all the people in the company. And we have good support from the city, county and state."

The city where Beechcraft was born back in the 1930s, under the leadership of Walter Beech, will be the city for its rebirth. The company refiles its reorganization plans with the bankruptcy court Monday, laying out its vision for the future. The court will review those plans next month.

Just how the company plans to rise from the ashes of bankruptcy is of great interest to the aviation world, judging from the standing room only at Hawker’s news conference at NBAA.

"We'll tell you what we can. We'll tell you what we can't," Boisture says. "There's a lot of speculation."

Speculation, much of which, Boisture says, isn’t worth dwelling on. What he wants to assure Wichita and the aviation world is of his confidence that Beechcraft will be successful selling the propeller aircraft the company formed its heritage on. Jet aircraft will not be a part of the new company. Company leaders announced intentions to expand their lineup of turboprops with four new models in coming years.

"We just have a strong market presence going forward as Beechcraft,” Boisture says. “I think the support that our people have shown for the hard decisions we've had to make during this bankruptcy prepares us all well for success."

And that hopeful success is expected without jet production as the company talks with other companies, expressing their interest in Hawker’s business jet division.

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