If Cessna Aircraft Co. is the successful bidder for Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corp., the plant will stay in Bend, Ore., Cessna CEO Jack J. Pelton said at AOPA Expo.
Pelton noted that the Columbia workforce, with its experience in composite construction, is in the region and that Cessna’s manufacturing facilities in Kansas are at capacity, so there would be no room to accommodate Columbia production there, anyway.
He added that Cessna’s intent, assuming it is the winning bidder of the Columbia assets, is to not only maintain production of the low-wing, composite Columbia models, but to increase it to 250 aircraft a year.
It is reported that at least four other bidders are actively seeking to buy the bankrupt company. An auction will be held in November.
Pelton revealed that Cessna had been in discussion with officials at Columbia since Sun ‘n Fun 2006, but could not sign a letter of intent until Columbia was on the brink of bankruptcy. Last month, Columbia filed a voluntary petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
Under Chapter 11, a company’s reorganization plan must be accepted by a majority of its creditors. Unless the court rules otherwise, the debtor remains in control of the business and its assets. The Malaysian government has owned a controlling interest in Columbia Aircraft since 2002.
According to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court filing in Portland, Ore., Columbia lists approximately $60 million in unsecured debt owed to thousands of creditors.
In the meantime, Cessna continues to develop its proof-of-concept Next Generation Piston, which made its first flight June 23, 2006. It debuted to the public at AirVenture that year. Since then, engineers have collected performance numbers and made aerodynamic modifications based on those figures.
“The latest modifications have shown positive changes to the performance characteristics,” said Van Abel, Cessna’s project engineer for the NGP. “Our team has captured data that validates predictions for the production configuration.”
Since the debut of the high-wing NGP, Cessna has displayed the aircraft at numerous air shows and conventions to gather feedback. In previous interviews with General Aviation News, Pelton noted that the NGP is the first in what may be a new family of aircraft for Cessna.
“There is still much work to be done,” Abel said. “We are in the process of working the configuration so we would have the potential of multiple powerplants, and we continue to study features and materials.” The NGP incorporates a higher percentage of composite materials than Cessna’s traditional aircraft. No performance data or specifications will be released until Cessna makes a launch decision on the program.