Recovery of Dassault Falcon Jet Benefits Arkansas

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Dec. 9, 2013 12:00 am  

One of Little Rock’s most important international companies sits directly under the flight paths of travelers departing and returning from overseas.

The Dassault Falcon Jet completion center comprises almost 1 million SF of hangar and office space at the edge of Clinton National Airport, where it has been situated since 1975. The facility employs 1,700 workers.

Dassault Falcon Jet is one of about a half-dozen subsidiaries of Dassault Aviation Group of Paris.

Before the economic downturn, the completion center sent most — about 70 percent — of its finished planes to customers in the United States.

But the recession bled those customers dry, resulting in a spate of order cancellations. A $30 million expansion announced in 2006 and 2007, which included a 66,500-SF paint facility, was followed by the company cutting its workforce by more than 300 through 2009.

With domestic deliveries slumping, the company shifted its gaze overseas.

Antoine Ajarrista, general manager of the completions facility, said the company’s customers are now mainly European, Middle Eastern, Brazilian and Chinese.

“There’s still something like 40 percent in the U.S., but most of our deliveries today happen all over the world,” he said.

But unlike competitor Hawker Beechcraft of Wichita, Kan., which declared bankruptcy in 2012 and later closed its Little Rock completions center, Dassault’s Little Rock business seems to be thriving.

In 2012, converted from euros, Dassault Aviation Group’s revenue was $5.34 billion, up 19 percent from 2011; net income was $710 million, up 25 percent.

In May, Dassault Falcon Jet announced a three-year, $60 million expansion plan, in which its Little Rock facilities would grow by 250,000 SF in anticipation of a new model of aircraft.

The new business brought in by the expansion is expected to create scores of new jobs, Ajarrista said. “We could have up to 200 additional employees when these new facilities become operational in 2016, depending on the market situation.” he said.



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