Liberty Aerospace Inc. said on Jan. 2 that it is reducing its Melbourne, Florida, workforce by 30 people, leaving the aircraft manufacturer with 40 employees there. As recently as last spring, Liberty employed 180 at the Florida plant. The layoffs were effective immediately and leave Liberty with about 90 employees worldwide.
Keith Markley, Liberty’s president and chief executive officer, said the sluggish global economy has resulted in fewer orders for the company’s XL-2 general aviation airplane.
“It’s been lower aircraft deliveries,” Markley said in explaining the reason for the employee cutbacks. “We’re just lowering our costs.” Earlier, Liberty had cut 50 employees as it shifted more parts manufacturing work to a partner company in Romania.
Liberty moved to Melbourne in 2002 from Montrose, Colo., setting up its production plant at Melbourne International Airport. In 2006, the company received a production certificate for the XL-2 from the Federal Aviation Administration and began delivering the sleek two-seaters to customers. In February of 2008 the company celebrated building and delivering 100 planes, three-quarters of which are used for flight training.
Liberty’s sales strategy involved marketing the XL-2 to domestic and international pilot-training schools, because of its relatively low cost and easy operation. Markley said the global downturn has led flight schools to cut back or aircraft orders, even though there is a growing need for new pilots.
“It’s hard to believe the industry is not going to flourish” at some point, he said.