Kansas Suppliers Hurt By Aircraft Cutbacks

Production cutbacks at Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft, and Bombardier Aircraft are rippling through machine shops and suppliers, meaning less work and job cuts.

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) -- Impacts from production cutbacks at major aircraft manufacturers are rippling through the machine shops and others that supply this city's aviation industry.

Cessna Aircraft Co., Hawker Beechcraft Corp. and Bombardier Aircraft have all announced cutbacks as customers defer or cancel plane orders amid the economic meltdown.

That means less work for suppliers, many of which have also cut jobs and reduced workweeks.

Cox Machine cut jobs and changed its workweek to four 10-hour days late last year.

"We saw a huge impact," said the company's chief technology officer, Jason Cox.

The company is watching production schedules, trying to ride the downturn. It has work on other projects, such as on Boeing Co. airliners. And Boeing has not cut production of commercial aircraft.

At Triumph Structures-Wichita, President Marwan Hammouri said his company's sales to Cessna have dropped by 40 percent. But new contracts for military work, which makes up 60 percent of its business, has meant Triumph has not had to cut jobs. Triumph employs 170 in Wichita.

At B&B Airparts, however, the company two weeks ago furloughed 12 workers for 90 days after the company experienced what President Jerry Smith calls "a "void of orders" on certain programs for the first five months of 2009.

"It's just left a hole," he said.

Work on other programs is helping to fill that void, he said.

How much individual suppliers are being affected depends on what customers they have, said Don McGinty, head of McGinty Machine Co. The company employs more than 30 people.

Those that mostly supply Hawker Beechcraft and Cessna -- the two plane makers with the biggest cutbacks -- are making adjustments to their work forces and workweeks to help with cash flow, McGinty said.

But because 75 percent to 80 percent of McGinty's work is on military projects, the company has been able to weather the downturn better than some. It even has four job openings.

A decision to focus on military work was made after the downturn following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

This downturn follows record growth in the aviation industry.

"The last three or four years have been phenomenal," said Mark Rehwinkel, regional sales manager and sales engineer for Makino machining equipment. Rehwinkel sells the machines to aviation suppliers.

But that changed late last year, he said.

"It's like someone pulled the switch," he said. "And it's not just in this locale; it is worldwide. Our business is down significantly all over the globe."

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