By John Boyd & Pilar Pedraza
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
8:39 PM CDT, October 18, 2012
Planemaker Hawker Beechcraft says it has called off talks with a Chinese planemaker and that it intends to emerge from bankruptcy as a standalone company. Details of the announcement are in the press release the company posted on its website Thursday morning (release is below).
Eyewitness News also checked with the Kansas Department of Commerce about the incentives it received to stay in Wichita.
A spokesperson says the state's plan requires Hawker Beechcraft to maintain a minimum of 4,000 employees. The incentives also include a "safe harbor" provision in case of a severe hardship, like bankruptcy. That provision would allow the company to reduce its workforce to 3,600 before incurring any penalties.
In 2010, the state of Louisiana tried to entice Hawker Beechcraft to move is operations to Baton Rouge. Instead, the company received a $45 million package from the state of Kansas, city of Wichita and Sedgwick County.
The International Association of Machinists (IAM) Union, which represents workers at Hawker Beechcraft, says it found out about the changes this morning.
Union spokesman Bob Wood tells Eyewitness News he has learned "the pension agreement ratified by members will not be changed or modified by this development."
Local aviation experts say we'll just have to wait and see whether this latest development is a good thing for the city.
"It remains to be seen whether it's good news, neutral news. I don't think it's bad news," said Dave Franson with the Wichita Aero Club. "Hawker is posititioning itself and they've been working hard at coming up with ways to move forward."
Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer has been on a trip to China and had planned to meet with officials from Superior Aviation earlier this week. That meeting was cancelled unexpectedly.
Thursday Brewer said he was disappointed that negotiations fell through.
He sent us the following statement:
I want to express my disappointment that negotiations for the sale of Hawker Beechcraft to Superior Aircraft Beijing have discontinued.
I am currently travelling with a Wichita delegation on a five-city, 12-day business development trip to China. I have been impressed with the leadership’s eagerness here to enter the general aviation industry. Their interest represents a great opportunity for Wichita’s aviation companies to take advantage of the expansion of general aviation in an increasingly global marketplace.
Based on my meetings here, I know China’s civic and business leaders are looking forward to working on aviation opportunities with Wichita companies, civic leaders and other local stakeholders. It is my strong opinion and hope that Hawker Beechcraft, which has its roots in the Air Capital, should stay intact and maintain as full a product line as possible in Wichita.
I strongly and respectfully urge Hawker Beechcraft leaders to honor the company’s rich history here as well its job-retention commitments to the Wichita community, the State of Kansas and its many hard-working employees.
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