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Court rejects Beechcraft challenge, allows work to continue on Air Force contract

  • Published Friday, April 19, 2013, at 3:42 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, August 21, 2013, at 5:45 p.m.

Beechcraft’s challenge of the Air Force’s decision to allow Sierra Nevada and Embraer to continue work on the light air support contract while the award is under review has been denied.

The U.S. Court of Federal Claims upheld the Air Force’s decision to bypass a Stop Work Order while the Government Accountability Office reviews the $427.5 million contract award.

Beechcraft filed a lawsuit with the Court of Federal Claims last month contesting the award to Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer. It also filed a protest with the GAO.

Beechcraft was passed over on the contract for 20 planes to go to Afghanistan’s military forces.

Sierra Nevada and Embraer plan to deliver Embraer’s A-29 Super Tucanos to the Air Force.

Beechcraft had offered the Air Force its AT-6, an attack version of its T-6 turboprop military trainer.

The company issued a statement Friday afternoon following the judge’s ruling.

“While we reluctantly accept the court’s opinion, we will continue to contest this award through the GAO and as a program of record for building partnership capacity with other nations that desire Light Air Support aircraft,” the statement said. “We remain committed to providing a superior aircraft for this mission that also protects national security interests, taxpayer dollars and preserves jobs in the U.S. aerospace manufacturing sector.”

Since the contract’s award and resulting protest, Embraer has broken ground on a manufacturing facility in Jacksonville, Fla., where it plans to assemble the Super Tucanos to go to the Air Force.

Beechcraft and Sierra Nevada have been battling for the contract for nearly three years, including legal challenges.

The Air Force canceled a contract award to Sierra Nevada in March 2012 after Beechcraft said it had wrongly been excluded from the bidding process. An Air Force investigation found that the bidding process had been flawed and that bias existed toward Embraer and Sierra Nevada. That led to the cancellation and a restart of the competition.

Sierra Nevada then contended that the revised bid proposal was tilted in favor of then-Hawker Beechcraft.

The new bidding process proceeded despite Sierra Nevada’s claim in court, and the company was selected for the project.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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