General aviation’s most iconic brands are poised to become one after Cessna parent company Textron confirmed it is buying Beechcraft for $1.4 billion. While the deal gives Beech a rock solid foundation for the future 10 months after emerging from bankruptcy, there are still many more questions than answers about what the merger means for the companies involved.
Here’s what we know so far: Textron is buying Beech primarily for the coveted King Air product line, which will continue to be sold under the Beechcraft brand name. The deal also includes the type certificates for the Premier IA and Hawker 4000, but the business jets won’t reenter production. Instead, Hawker Beechcraft Services, which Textron is also buying, will continue supporting bizjet customers.
What we don’t know yet is what will happen with the Beechcraft workforce in Wichita, which currently numbers around 3,300. Textron CEO Scott Donnelly said on a conference call after the deal was announced that a restructuring process will begin as soon as the merger is completed a few months from now. Textron will appoint a transition team, and until that happens nobody can say what sort of employee reductions or plant consolidations might occur. Still, the post-bankruptcy Beechcraft is a lean operation already and so announcements of mass layoffs are unlikely.
With the buyout, Textron also gains Beech’s AT-6 Texan military trainer, which would be a nice fit with the recently launched Scorpion light attack jet from Textron AirLand, a new subsidiary that has been getting help from Cessna engineers. It’s too early to say how Textron might seek to integrate the products. The Scorpion as yet doesn’t have any customers, but if it enters production Textron could use it and the Texan to position itself as a budget-conscious defense supplier.
Also unclear is what becomes of the Bonanza and Baron piston models. When Cessna bought the Columbia 400 piston single, that airplane became the Cessna 400 (later renamed the Covalis and now, the Cessna TTx). It’s unlikely the new Beech will rename its iconic piston models, but it remains to be seen whether Textron will green light a move to aero diesels in the Bonanza and Baron, and whether it will go ahead and launch a proposed single-engine turboprop under the Beechcraft name or perhaps as a Cessna product.
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