Aviation

Hawker Beechcraft to choose Wichita or Louisiana by March

Hawker Beechcraft (October 18, 2010)
Hawker Beechcraft (October 18, 2010) The Wichita Eagle

Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture told employees Wednesday that decisions regarding the company's future in Wichita will be made by the end of March.

Boisture made his announcement during the company's quarterly meeting with all of its employees.

Hawker Beechcraft spokeswoman Sarah Estes confirmed that Boisture said "there will be a decision on what and where the footprints of Hawker Beechcraft will be by the end of the first quarter of 2011."

"He promised there will be a decision made."

Whether the future of the company includes Wichita has been unclear since this summer. That's when news broke that Hawker Beechcraft reportedly had received incentives worth hundreds of millions dollars from Louisiana to relocate the company to Baton Rouge.

The company, founded in Wichita in 1932 as Beech Aircraft Corp. by Walter and Olive Ann Beech, employs about 6,000 people.

Boisture has said that the company — hurt by the economic downturn and trying to find ways to remain profitable — plans to move some work from Wichita to outside suppliers and to its operations in Mexico. The company also is closing its plant in Salina.

In October, the company issued 60-day layoff notices to 350 salaried employees in Wichita and confirmed a timeline to move work that would eliminate about 800 of the company's 2,600 union jobs.

In Wednesday's meetings, Boisture recapped the past year with employees, noting its milestones and new product announcements and reiterated plans to shut Plants I and II, Estes said.

Hawker Beechcraft confirmed in October that it plans to close the two plants, move out King Air-related back shop operations from Plant IV, move electrical and upholstery from Building 94 and complete outsourcing of logistic center operations.

The moves will be finalized by August, the company said.

In response to Louisiana's offer, Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson put together an incentives package to keep work in Wichita, a deal that was contingent upon the company and its Machinists union reaching a new labor agreement.

In exchange, the company would have retained certain key functions and two-thirds of the 2,600 union-represented jobs in Wichita.

Fifty-five percent of union members, expressing anger and cynicism about the company's motives, rejected the seven-year agreement that would have cut wages 10 percent and increased insurance contributions.

The current contract expires in August.

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