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Eagle editorial: Beechcraft ready to take off

  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013, at 12 a.m.

With Hawker Beechcraft’s name and financial challenges now behind it, Beechcraft Corp. can concentrate on building the planes and brand that made the company famous. Especially considering the alternatives, Tuesday’s exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy seems like a big step forward for both the 81-year-old aircraft manufacturer and the Air Capital.

The past year also looks like another success story for Robert “Steve” Miller, the turnaround expert who was brought in as CEO about a year ago “to figure out how to get through these financial headwinds,” as he put it then.

That process included suspense, especially when it appeared the likely buyer was a Chinese company partly owned by the city of Beijing. The painful toll in layoffs has mounted, with employment in Wichita dipping below the 4,000 threshold required to draw down the full payments of the $45 million incentives deal with the state and local governments.

But creditors, analysts, customers and even union leaders have seemed reassured by the restructuring, which won the blessing of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York earlier this month. With $2.5 billion in debt shaved to $225 million, Beechcraft is positioned to serve the needs of the strengthening global market for propeller-driven aircraft and leave business jets to others.

Now the community will be pulling for Bill Boisture, who is again chief executive, and the rest of the management team as they chart the future for the Bonanza, Baron and King Air product lines, and the T-6 military trainer and AT-6 light-attack airplane. One defining moment could come Friday, when the U.S. Air Force is expected to announce the results of its rebidding for a $350 million light air support contract to supply 20 aircraft to the Afghan air force.

A year ago, Miller predicted: “This is going to be a wonderful story.… (We’re going to) emerge on the other side as a company our whole country can be proud of.”

It’s a pleasure to welcome Beechcraft Corp. to Wichita while pointing with pride to the long local history of both the company and the Beech name.

For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman

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