Hawker says transition plan is moving forward


Aug. 25--Hawker Beechcraft officials say they have made substantial progress on a major transition plan to shift work and reduce the company's footprint in an effort to cut costs.

In Wichita, the company is in the midst of closing Plants 1 and 2 and moving the work, along with King Air-related back shop operations, to its facilities in Mexico and to outside suppliers. Plants 1 and 2 primarily work on fabricated components and assemblies.

It's a move that will affect about 800 jobs in Wichita, the company has said. Hawker also is closing its Salina plant.

Officials announced the plans last year in a transformation called Project Challenge to resize the company to meet lower aircraft demand and lower costs to be more competitive.

The company also received $45 million in incentives from the state, city and county last year in exchange for keeping the company and 4,000 jobs in Wichita. The company had received an offer to relocate to Louisiana.

"We've made what I call substantial and steady progress," Scott Shepherd, Hawker Beechcraft vice president for integrated supply chain, said of the transition. "It's a very complex project. There's a lot of moving parts."

About 400 engineers have relocated from Plant 1 to the company's Corporate Hills offices at Douglas and Webb.

Assembly of piston airplanes has moved from Plant 2 to Plant 4.

The transition has gone well, Shepherd said, "thanks to a lot of hard work on the part of everybody in the company that's been involved in these projects.

"This touched all aspects of the company from the top floor to all of the other support areas that support the plant."

There have been some bumps during the transition.

"It really goes back to this is a very complex project," Shepherd said. "With that complexity, there are unforeseen things that come up that we've had to address."

He declined to provide further details.

The time schedule for some projects has changed and some projects have been reordered, Shepherd said.

"We're still committed to the plan," he said. "There's no change in the big picture."

What ultimately will happen with Plants 1 and 2 remains to be seen.

"There's a possibility to sell or to lease or potentially retain it ourselves, dependent on what drives the best outcome for us," Shepherd said.

In Salina, Hawker Beechcraft's lease expires next year, and the company does not plan to renew it. Several buildings have been vacated and the company is in the process of leaving the remaining ones, he said.

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