"They have been losing share in the (business jet) market," he said. "The crisis of confidence among their customers has been an issue."
The company also makes trainers and other small planes for the military, but civilian planes are still 56 percent of its revenue, compared to 27 percent for military planes. Hawker has delivered more than 700 T-6 trainers, most of them to the U.S. Air Force and Navy. But that contract is winding down. Hawker is trying to sell a light attack version of that plane to the Air Force, which is reconsidering its initial pick of a competing plane.
For Wichita, as well as Kansas, the stakes in the future of Hawker Beechcraft and the aviation industry are high.
Aircraft sales comprise the state's number one export, accounting for a third of the products it makes, Hill said. In 2008, aerospace accounted for $4.3 billion of Kansas exports — a number which plummeted to $2.1 billion by 2010. Wichita used to be the sixth largest city among U.S. aviation exporters in 2008, dropping to tenth by 2010.
Hawker Beechcraft employs some 7,400 people, with roughly 4,700 working at its Wichita facility. It also has factories in Little Rock, Ark., Britain and Mexico, as well as more than 100 service centers worldwide.
Freed contributed to this story from Minneapolis.
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