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Hawker Beechcraft Warns Of Far-Reaching Job Cuts

Airplane maker warned its workers Wednesday to prepare for job cuts that could touch all areas and levels of the company.

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Airplane maker Hawker Beechcraft warned its workers Wednesday to prepare for job cuts that could touch all areas and levels of the company.

The letter from Vice President Rich Jiwandlal did not yet detail the anticipated layoffs, and a spokesman for the Wichita-based company said no additional information was available.

Jiwandlal, who heads the firm's human resources department, wrote that the company expected to finalize the plan within the next few weeks and would then communicate details of the reduction.

"I wanted to use this opportunity to assure you that we are taking every possible step to minimize the impact of the reduction on our employees, their families and our company," he wrote.

The company is reviewing its business in an effort to reconcile first-quarter and full-year 2009 production needs with the size of its work force, according to the letter.

"While details have yet to be finalized, we must be prepared that the reduction could very well touch all areas and levels of the company due to the severity of the challenges we face," Jiwandlal said.

His letter comes two weeks after Chief Executive Officer Jim Schuster told workers to expect a second round of layoffs. Nearly 500 Hawker Beechcraft workers lost their jobs late last year.

Schuster had already laid the groundwork for more reductions, warning employees earlier this month that the general aviation market has slowed. New airplane orders have fallen off and existing orders have been canceled. Used aircraft inventory also has increased.

Hawker Beechcraft had about 9,800 employees, including about 7,000 at its Wichita plant, when it announced its first round of layoffs last year. The company also has operations in Salina, Arkansas, Mexico and the United Kingdom.

Schuster noted in an October letter sent just before the first layoffs that Hawker Beechcraft is highly leveraged, carrying nearly $2.4 billion in debt. This year's interest expense will be close to $190 million, or more than $500,000 a day.

Hawker Beechcraft is not the only struggling aircraft manufacturer.

Earlier this month Cessna Aircraft announced 2,000 layoffs, coming just a month after it issued 60-day layoff notices to about 500 Wichita employees and 165 workers in Bend, Ore.

Boeing Integrated Defense Systems also said last year it would lay off 800 workers due to the delay of a U.S. Air Force tanker replacement program and the end of other work projects.

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