Bombardier to lay off 350 more at Wichita Learjet plant

Bombardier Learjet unveiled its new Learjet 75. (May 14, 2012)
Bombardier Learjet unveiled its new Learjet 75. (May 14, 2012) File photo

Bombardier is cutting 1,700 jobs, including 550 at its Learjet plant in Wichita, the company told employees in an internal memo Tuesday morning.

The layoffs will affect workers across the spectrum and include contractors, union-represented workers and nonrepresented employees, said Bombardier spokeswoman Annie Cossette. She did not have a breakdown for those different sectors.

In Wichita, 200 workers already have departed, after being laid off in December. The Tuesday announcement means 350 more will lose their jobs in the coming weeks.

Bombardier currently employs 3,000 contractors and direct employees in Wichita.

Bombardier also will proceed with periodic furloughs and temporary layoffs of 300 Wichita employees during the first six months of the year, although some of those affected may be laid off permanently, Cossette said.

In early January, the company told employees in a memo that a total of six weeks of furloughs and temporary layoffs would be implemented in two-week blocks.

The news of permanent layoffs come a day after a disappointing report on 2013 deliveries – a report that clearly showed the market for business jets has not recovered since the recession ended more than four years ago. In particular, the market for the light category business aircraft segment has not rebounded as fast as the company had hoped, despite encouraging signs in the U.S. economy, Cossette said of the cuts in Wichita.

“It’s a very challenging market,” Cossette said.

The market for medium and large business aircraft has been stronger than the light business jet market, she said.

The remainder of the 1,700 layoffs will be made at Bombardier sites in Montreal, she said.

With delays in two new aircraft programs, Bombardier is working to control costs and preserve cash, the company said. Those new programs require a lot of resources.

The company has announced delays in its new Learjet 85 business jet program, launched in October 2007 in Wichita, and in its new CSeries commercial jet, which is built in Canada.

It announced last week that the CSeries jet won’t be ready for service until the second half of 2015, several months later than its previous plan.

The first flight of the composite Learjet 85, expected by the end of 2013, has been delayed, the company said this month.

A flight is now scheduled in the “coming weeks,” Cossette said in early January. Entry-into-service is still set for this summer 2014, but that may be revised, she said. Once the flight occurs, the Learjet team will review whether that date will need to be moved, she said. The program has met with other delays since its launch.

On Monday, Bombardier announced that it had delivered 25 percent fewer Wichita-assembled Learjets in 2013 than it did the year before.

It delivered 29 Learjet business jets in 2013, compared to 39 in the previous year.

The decline was due mainly to the transition from the Learjet 40XR and Learjet 45XR to the Learjet 70 and 75, which entered service in the fourth quarter of the year.

In its business aviation division, Bombardier delivered 180 business jets, which includes the Learjet deliveries, compared to 179 in 2012.

It took orders, however, for 305 business aircraft last year, compared to 343 in 2012.

The recovery is taking longer than anticipated, Guy Hachey, Bombardier Aerospace president, said in a statement Monday.

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