End of the Line for the Bonanza?
As we reported last week, there is a lot of behind-the-scenes activity at iconic Wichita GA manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft, a company that was hit harder by the economic downturn than any of its competitors.
But after declaring bankruptcy last month and eliminating massive amounts of debt, the company has apparently become a hot commodity. The Wichita Eagle recently reported that there is interest in Hawker Beechcraft from Cessna Aircraft parent company Textron, and rumors continue to swirl that other major players are eyeing particular parts of the financially challenged company, most notably its King Air and Hawker lineups. The company’s service center network is another prize plum that must surely be attracting interest, along with its military contracts for the Texan II trainer and various militarized versions of the King Air.
The common theme is this. Before the bankruptcy, Hawker Beechcraft was so unattractive a company that rumors of its sale became an inside joke. The truth was, as much as prospective bidders admired the company’s various product lines, Hawker Beechcraft’s outstanding debt dealt a death blow to every potential deal. Now that the debt is gone, there’s nothing to stop potential suitors from making good on their designs.
While Hawker Beechcraft has until the end of the month to lay out its strategy, those in management at the company have repeatedly said that there’s little off the table at this point in the process. It’s not the kind of thing that company officials usually say when they’re trying desperately to keep a company intact.
As much fun as it might be, speculation concerning what form Hawker Beechcraft may take soon is pointless. There are many potential suitors, including competitors, emerging industrial powers (okay, China), and even companies without much or any other aviation background. Not only that, but with HBC having at least a half dozen splittable segments of its business, you could drive yourself crazy imagining the hundreds of possible scenarios, though some of them are potentially very interesting, and several possible scenarios would attract great interest from the feds, due to HBC's extensive DoD contracts.
The one segment we haven’t heard much about from our sources is with the Beechcraft Bonanza and Baron models, though whether that's because there's no interest or because there's radio silence among fierce competitors, we can't say. One thing's for sure, though. These airplanes, the only two piston models that Hawker Beechcraft produces (albeit in relatively small numbers), hold a special place in the hearts of GA pilots. We all hope these great piston aircraft live on through whatever changes might come.
I guess that can be said about the whole affair, that we can’t help but hope that whatever form Hawker Beechcraft takes as it emerges from bankruptcy, the people who work for the company, its investors and its customers all come away with the very best deal for all and that all of the company’s iconic GA models, from the Hawker 4000 to the Beechcraft Bonanza, live to fly another day.
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