Beechcraft, the Cadillac of General Aviation airplanes, may become Chinese.

The Beechcraft Bonanza is the ‘Cadillac’ of GA airplanes. Fast, roomy… and expensive. They first came out in 1947, and they’re still in production. Beech Aircraft Corporation was founded in 1932, and was sold to Raytheon in 1980. Raytheon acquired British Aerospace Corporate Jets from British Aerospace, and merged Beechcraft with it to form Hawker Beechcraft. In 2007 Raytheon sold Hawker Beechcraft to a Canadian subsidiary of Goldman Sachs.

Now negotiations are under way to sell Hawker Beechcraft to Superior Aviation Beijing Co. Ltd. and Beijing E-Town International Investment and Development Corp. Ltd., a company controlled by the Beijing municipal government. Superior says it will keep Hawker Beechcraft jobs in the U.S., and that they intend to expand production – including that of personal aircraft.

It’s a world economy. Some of my Jeep was built in Canada, as well as Toledo. Lots of Japanese cars are U.S.-made. Cessna’s 162 Skycatcher is made in China. A lot of Volkswagens are made in Mexico. Still, it seems strange that the airplane seen by many pilots over many decades as the epitome of personal airplanes will no longer be American. Sure, it will still be built here, by American workers, but conceptually it seems a little ‘off’.

Not that it matters. I can’t even scrape up a measly $40,000 for a 40-year-old Skyhawk! :stuck_out_tongue:

Ah Sooo! You wanna buy Folked Tail Doctol Killel?

I’d rather have a 36-series.

Eh… The writing has been on the wall for a long time. The current Baron and Bonanza are virtually identical to the ones that rolled off the line in 1969/1970, respectively. The Hawker 400 hasn’t changed much since the MU-300 first flew 35 years ago, and the same can be said for the 800/900/750. Why would I pay $17M for a 30 year-old design with terrible performance when I could buy something like a Citation Sovereign or Legacy 500 for the same price? Admittedly, the pistons and the 900 are built like absolute tanks, but talk about a stagnant product line. The King Air family hasn’t really changed in 30 years either, but it was lucky enough to be in a niche that had very little real competition (MU-2/AC690) until the VLJs and their ever-growing big brothers started showing up. New technology became available, other companies spent the money to develop product, and guess what? King Air sales are down now too. The 4000 and the Premier are/were both failures. The 4000 program especially has contributed greatly to sinking HBC. The program was poorly managed from day one, and the airplane is full of problems and poorly supported. With China’s GA world growing rapidly from the top down, it makes sense for them to buy the technological information they need in the form of the 900/4000 programs and gut the rest of the company. The same thing will happen with the Citation Latitude that’s going to be built in China - Cessna is helping China put it out of business via technology transfer. At least Bombardier and Gulfstream had enough sense to tell the Chinese government to go jump in a lake when it proposed Chinese factories to those companies.

I’m not normally such a protectionist, but this is one industry that is very much home-grown and has huge export potential for the US and Canada in the next several decades as the BRIC nations come into their own.

Yeah, GA airplanes should be built here and exported. But U.S. airplane makers have reduced production so much that they no longer have the economy of scale. Even making the Skycatcher in China, Cessna can’t afford to drop its exorbitant price. Traditionally flight schools bought new airplanes, flew them to TBO, and then sold them to private owners. The planes were priced such that an individual making a middle-class salary could afford a new one. Not so anymore. Most FBOs I’ve seen are still using M-, N-, or P-model Skyhawks. If they have a new airplane, it’s probably a Cirrus or a Diamond. ISTR that Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University bought a couple of 162 Skycatchers, and then got rid of them in favour of trusty 150/152s. Might not bode well for sales.

Anyway, if the Chinese can build light planes and sell them at middle-class prices, more power to them! If not, then I’ll just try to save up that 40 kilobucks.

The chastising of the fat cats that came to Washington from Detroit with their hands out in their corporate jets did more harm for Beechcraft than people could imagine.

I hope they take the ideas of basic science, engineering, and quality control more seriously when they are building planes than they do when they are making tooth paste and doggy treats.

I don’t agree with that. Were I to guess, I’d guess that they flew in on Gulfstreams.

Not that someone shouldn’t have stopped to think for a moment how it would look.

I don’t think it’s the lack of economies of scale that killed light GA - despite the Popular Mechanics articles of the 50’s predicting otherwise, it was always a low volume boutique industry. Aviation was expensive in the 60’s and 70’s, but it was at least somewhat accessible. The real change since then has been the growing toxicity of the litigous environment here in the US, and more recently in Europe. The GA Revitalization Act of 1994 was supposed to provide some relief, but the damage had already been done. The world (and especially aviation) is now so drowned in liability and insurance structures that it’s far too expensive to design and certify new light GA airplanes unless you sell thousands upon thousands of units. Who has tried recently? Cirrus? Escaped bankruptcy by selling to China. Piper? Essentially went bankrupt, sold to the Sultan of Brunei, still not remotely profitable. Columbia? Almost bankrupt, bought out by Cessna, who it appears is slowly selling out to China. Eclipse? A complete disaster. After ten years and $10B spent, it had to be liquidated under Chapter 7 bankruptcy to erase all of the debt. Even after buying it for fractions of a penny on the dollar, the new owners still had to convince United Technologies to buy a huge chunk of the company before they could do anything at all with it. They still haven’t built an airplane since 2008. Diamond barely escaped bankruptcy after the Thielert fraud debacle by selling controlling ownership to an investment firm in Dubai, and they’re now profitable only because they have been extremely agile in a volatile market, and they’re subsidizing their GA habit by selling DA42s as UAVs to various governments, and they’re looking into funding the D-Jet program by selling a variant as a military jet trainer.

billfish678, Cessna already got bit once by “overseas” manufacturing. In 2006 they set up their first plant outside the US in Chihuahua, Mexico to build their carbon composite Cessna 400. Result? Pilots found their wings were falling apart. Nice.

Omar Little, many corporations knee-jerked after that whole automaker circus and dumped their airplanes like they were radioactive, losing tens of millions by unloading large assets onto an extremely depressed market. However, the people who had to fly to do business still had to get around - they just moved back into fractionals and charter. Nevermind the fact that it costs just as much or more than ownership on a per-hour basis - as long as there wasn’t a Big Evil Jet on the books, the shareholders and consumers were fat dumb and happy. The only real losers in that whole charade were the hundreds upon hundreds of pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, and support staff who were kicked to the curb when all the business airplanes were parked and listed on the market. The politics and hypocracy of the whole thing make me want to puke. The members of Congress who raked those CEOs over the coals about their travel choices? They use business aircraft owned and operated by the USAF on the taxpayer’s dime every day. The talking heads on CNN and FOX news and MSNBC who crucified those “corporate fat cats flying on luxury jets?” Guess what, they fly on “luxury jets” too. You really think Matt Lauer schleps his crap through security and waits at the gate for an airliner? I don’t care that they all fly on private jets, in fact, I think it’s great. But to spew flaming rhetoric to an audience of hundreds of millions while taking part in the exact thing you’re whipping people into a frenzy about? Give me a break.

Here’s a thought experiment for you - let’s say you had a meeting to close a six billion dollar deal that would determine the fate of your 200,000 employees and the million plus family members who depend on them. You could either drive ten hours, or take the jet to get you there poste haste, so you can concentrate with your team on what the hell you’re doing. What would you do?

My whole point is that corporate aviation is not the antichrist that the media makes it out to be - it’s an easy target because it’s expensive, and it’s sensationalized because that’s what sells commercials. Yes, it’s expensive. But how else can a company get a team of eight middle managers to four meetings in four cities all in a single day? Or get a US based legal team to a morning meeting in London and an afternoon meeting in Moscow to close that big deal to keep your company running and your employees employed? Used properly, corporate aircraft are real life time machines. [/soapbox]

You know about MG, right?

Reminds me of when I used to do a lot of shade tree mechanic work for myself, family and friends. I’d go buy a car part and see it had been made in Mexico and I’d think “aww crap”. Years later I’d buy a part, see it was made in Mexico and think “thank gawd it wasn’t made in China”.

IIRC, they bought the badge.

I agree with you that flying has always been expensive. But it used to be affordable for someone making a middle-class salary. In the '80s you could buy a new Skyhawk for around $40,000. That’s Porsche 911 range. Now you can get three new 911s for the price of a new Skyhawk.

And I agree that the litigation is what caused the collapse of the industry. My dad bought a six-year-old Skyhawk for $10,200 and sold it 10 years later after the cessation of production for $19,000. He paid $19,000 for a Skylane and sold it later for $39,000. Now you’re paying that much for a 172 with 10,000 or 12,000 hours on it. The litigation caused the supply to dry up, but the demand was still there. The airplane makers were bought by larger companies (Textron, Raytheon) who were more interested in making business aircraft than the planes the companies had been known for. Also, business aircraft represent less exposure, liability-wise, than ‘little airplanes’. I wouldn’t call pre-1986 single-engine pistons a ‘boutique industry’, but they certainly are now.

The sad thing is that they’ve priced their products out of reach of their target market. Since the target market has always had other commitments (mortgages, car payments, kids’ tuition, etc.) it’s now difficult for people to rent, let alone buy. In the past 25 years people have forgotten about flying. A whole generation doesn’t even think of it. If manufacturers want to sell single-engine pistons (and it doesn’t appear they do) they need to make them cheaper or else have an unsustainable market. If they were making 15,000 Bugsmasher 150s like they were in the late-'70s, they’d sell every one.