Hawker Beechcraft to Close Little Rock Facility, Reduce Arkansas Workforce

Hawker Beechcraft Corp. of Wichita, Kan., announced Wednesday it will close its Hawker Beechcraft Services facility in Little Rock and reduce its remaining workforce.

The company stated in a news release that the changes were part of a post-Chapter 11 bankruptcy assessment of the company's future.

The release said that facilities in Mesa, Ariz., and San Antonio will be closed along with the Little Rock facility.

"Approximately 240 employees will be affected in these locations," the release said.

About 170 additional workers will also be laid off between the Little Rock Completions Center and Hawker Beechcraft Corp. in Wichita, Kan., where the company has its headquarters. More than half of the reduction will take place in Little Rock, the news release stated. Little Rock employees affected by the move will notified on Monday.

"While extremely difficult decisions, these closures and reductions in force will get the company closer to what we envision for our go-forward plan that focuses on turboprop, piston, special mission and trainer/attack aircraft, as well as our parts, maintenance, repairs and refurbishment business," the release said.

An email from Hawker Beechcraft stated that the company would not provide specific layoff numbers for any of the various locations, nor would it comment.

Hawker, which filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May, employs about 280 people at Adams Field in Little Rock, where it finishes out its line of private jets. That operation would have been included in the sale to Superior Aviation, which the companies scrapped last month.

Post bankruptcy, Hawker planned to rename itself "Beechcraft Corporation" and focus on its profitable turboprop, piston, special mission and trainer/attack aircraft businesses. It had said it might sell "some or all" of its other product lines, or close its "entire jet business if no satisfactory bids are received."

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., called the news a "blow to Arkansas' aerospace manufacturing development." But it is the latest in a series of setbacks that have slowly trimmed jobs from a major Little Rock employer. In August, the company laid off 170.

Hawker has been an important player in Arkansas' aerospace industry. It is the state's third-largest aerospace firm, according to Arkansas Business' 2012 list (PDF). Products in aerospace are the state's second-largest value-added export, according to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

In addition to supporting hundreds of jobs, the company has occupied 247,500 SF of hangar and office space at Adams Field. Through an agreement that ends in 2037, the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport receives $587,626.05 per year from Hawker for the use of land and buildings at Adams Field.

Dassault Aviation's Dassault Falcon Jet, the state's largest aerospace operation, also runs a completion center at Adams Field. The company employs about 1,700 workers.

Full Letter to Employees From Company Executives

Fellow Hawker Beechcraft Employees,

Following our recent announcement that we intend to emerge from Chapter 11 protection as a standalone company, we have begun assessing what our workforce and operational footprint will be for a sustainable and competitive future as Beechcraft Corporation.

With that in mind, we will begin the process of closing the Hawker Beechcraft Services (HBS) facilities in Little Rock, Ark.; Mesa, Ariz.; and San Antonio, Texas. Approximately 240 employees will be affected in these locations.

In addition, we will be implementing a reduction in force that will affect approximately 170 employees at Hawker Beechcraft Corporation in Wichita, Kan., and Little Rock. More than half of those affected are employees at our Little Rock Completions Center, where the company is finishing its remaining Hawker aircraft for customer delivery. The company already has taken a series of steps during 2012 to match its hourly employee levels to adjusted production rates. Therefore, we expect this reduction will impact 15 or fewer bargaining unit employees.

Impacted employees at the three HBS locations will be notified the week of Nov. 12. Employees in Wichita will be notified on Friday, Nov. 9 and those at the Little Rock Completions Center on Monday, Nov. 12. Each employee will be notified of whether he/she will be required to work during all or some of the 60-day Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice (WARN) period based on business needs. Human Resources leaders will be working with managers, who will inform the impacted employees.

While extremely difficult decisions, these closures and reductions in force will get the company closer to what we envision for our go-forward plan that focuses on turboprop, piston, special mission and trainer/attack aircraft, as well as our parts, maintenance, repairs and refurbishment businesses.

Your continued focus on designing, manufacturing and servicing the best airplanes in the world is critical to our success, and we appreciate your continued hard work and dedication. We will continue to provide updates as we move forward. 

Sincerely,

Steve Miller, CEO, Hawker Beechcraft Inc.

Bill Boisture, Chairman, Hawker Beechcraft Corp.

(Lance Turner contributed to this story.)