Big changes in the general aviation market

Cessna Aircraft Co. (Wichita, Kan.) finalized its purchase of selected assets of Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Co. (Bend, Ore.) on Dec. 4, 2007. Cessna’s auction bid of $26.4 million (USD) for the high-performance, single-engine aircraft producer was accepted by court order on Nov. 28 by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court

Cessna Aircraft Co. (Wichita, Kan.) finalized its purchase of selected assets of Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Co. (Bend, Ore.) on Dec. 4, 2007. Cessna’s auction bid of $26.4 million (USD) for the high-performance, single-engine aircraft producer was accepted by court order on Nov. 28 by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Oregon. Cirrus Design (Duluth, Minn.), investment firm Versa Capital Management Inc. (Philadelphia, Pa.) and Park Electrochemical Corp. (Melville, N.Y.) also had expressed interest in bidding for the company.

Despite the fact that deliveries through third quarter 2007 were on pace to set a new company record, Columbia announced on Sept. 24, 2007, that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Its products, the high-performance Columbia 350 (top photo) and Columbia 400, have carbon fiber/epoxy airframes. Columbia’s Bend factory now will carry the Cessna name, and the Columbia aircraft will be rebranded as the Cessna 350 and the Cessna 400. According to Cessna, these two low-wing designs will complement Cessna’s existing line of eight piston models. Based on unit sales, Cessna Aircraft, established in 1927, is the world’s largest manufacturer of general aviation airplanes.

In another major general aviation development, Rick Schrameck, president and CEO of Epic Aircraft (Bend, Ore.), announced at the National Business Aviation Assn. (NBAA) show in late September a new partnership with Indian billionaire Dr. Vijay Mallya. The deal provides Epic with the funding necessary to accelerate the process of bringing the company’s growing line of aircraft to the certified market, as well as strengthening the company’s relationships with customers and vendors around the world.

“Epic was really looking for a strategic partner, not just an investor,” Schrameck explains. “Dr. Mallya now has a significant interest in our company, and we will immediately benefit from his relationships with a variety of companies, including Airbus and Pratt & Whitney.”

Dr. Mallya owns and operates India’s premier private air carrier, Kingfisher Airlines. His airline was among the first to order the new Airbus A380 and is one of Airbus’ largest customers. Dr. Mallya also is chairman of United Breweries Group, a multinational conglomerate of more than 60 companies. He shares interest in aviation and cars with Schrameck, who holds records for wins on the automobile racing circuit and at the Reno Air Races.

Epic is in the advanced stages of flight testing for the Dynasty (lower photo), a 1,200-hp single-engine turboprop. The company recently unveiled two new very light jets (VLJs), the twin-engine Elite and the single-engine Victory. The jets will begin their certification processes immediately following certification of the Dynasty. All three aircraft feature fuselages fabricated with carbon/epoxy composites.

Epic booked orders worth more than $23 million (USD) at the Sun ’n Fun fly-in in April 2007, and then sold another $40 million worth of aircraft only 3 months later at AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis.