AIN Blog: Ten Reasons Ford Motor Should Buy Hawker Beechcraft

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Ford Tri Motor
Ford manufactured 199 Tri Motor airplanes between 1926 and 1933. If it bought Hawker Beechcraft, it could get back into the aircraft manufacturing business. (Photo: Stuart Jet Center)
August 28, 2012 - 9:00am

Hawker Beechcraft filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May and is currently in exclusive negotiations with Superior Aviation Beijing, which has placed a stalking-horse bid to buy Hawker Beechcraft for $1.79 billion. However, the Wichita-based aircraft manufacturer will ultimately be sold in a public auction, meaning it is still very much up for grabs.

Cessna Aircraft parent company Textron and Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer were believed to be among the interested bidders during the closed-bid process in which Superior Aviation prevailed. But the sale of Hawker Beechcraft, which was founded in Wichita by Walter Beech in 1932, to a Chinese company doesn’t sit well with many. Likewise, selling it to another general/business aviation aircraft manufacturer will just result in fewer competitors, which really isn’t good for customers, the supplier base or even the overall industry.

That’s why I believe that an American company that has extensive manufacturing experience, but isn’t currently involved in the GA/bizav industry, should make a serious play for Hawker Beechcraft during the public auction. And who better than Ford Motor?

Here’s a list of 10 reasons why I think that Ford should place a bid for Hawker Beechcraft:

1) By manufacturing airplanes, Ford would regain a piece of its history. In 1925 Henry Ford bought Stout Metal Airplane Co. and its aircraft designs. He turned a single-engine Stout design into the three-engine Ford Tri Motor, an all-metal aircraft that was built with then-advanced construction techniques. A total of 199 Ford Tri Motors were built between 1926 and 1933. Ford hasn’t mass produced any civil aircraft since the Tri Motor, though it did build Consolidated B-24 Liberators under license, as well as airplane engines for the British government, during World War II.

2) Ford is an American icon. So is Hawker Beechcraft.

3) Ford can afford to buy Hawker Beechcraft and invest in new products. During the first half of this year, the automotive company posted $2.8 billion in after-tax profits. With this amount alone, it could buy Hawker Beechcraft for $1.8 billion and invest a couple of hundred million in R&D for new aircraft, and it’d still have money left over.

4) Ford CEO Alan Mulally knows airplanes and aircraft manufacturing. Before joining Ford he was the executive vice president of Boeing and the CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA). Mulally began his career with Boeing as an aircraft engineer in 1969 and rose through the ranks. In the 2000s he was credited with Boeing’s resurgence against Airbus. Just imagine what he could do with Hawker Beechcraft.

5) Quality still is “job one” at Ford, even though the company no longer uses that as a marketing slogan. “Quality is part of Ford’s DNA, and the Ford team is dedicated to continually finding new ways to please our customers,” Bennie Fowler, Ford’s group vice president of global quality and new model launch, said last year when accepting the 2010 Quality Leader of the Year Award from the American Society for Quality. Hawker Beechcraft also strives for the “highest standards of quality,” but Ford could raise the bar even higher at the aircraft manufacturer.

6) Supply-chain synergies. Automotive manufacturing is a high-volume business, so Ford can buy in bulk at lower prices. General aviation aircraft manufacturing is generally a low-volume business, so Hawker Beechcraft buys in small batches and doesn’t get much of a price break. Under Ford, Hawker Beechcraft could leverage Ford’s supplier base to reap bigger discounts. And Ford might also be able to strike automotive supply deals with some existing Hawker Beechcraft suppliers to bring down prices of other components. It wouldn’t work for everything, but there certainly are synergies and savings to be had here. For example, if Ford had a high-volume supply deal with Garmin for a built-in navigation system in its cars, it could piggyback this volume discount toward Garmin avionics systems for Hawker Beechcraft aircraft.

7) Engineering synergies. Ford has a cadre of engineers and, to a smaller extent, so does Hawker Beechcraft. Both groups can learn something from one another and even work together on some projects. Hawker Beechcraft’s engineers are experts at using Catia computer-aided design software and can transfer this knowledge to Ford’s engineers. Likewise, Ford engineers work on a higher volume of projects, so they have a broader experience base that they can share with Hawker Beechcraft’s engineers. An automotive engineer could bring a lot to the table when it comes to aircraft design, and vice versa.

8) Ford could once again revolutionize aircraft manufacturing. Using its vast expertise in manufacturing workflows, automation and management, Ford could bring Hawker Beechcraft’s manufacturing plants into the 21st century. Every time I’ve visited Hawker Beechcraft’s metal aircraft and wing manufacturing lines, I feel like I’m stepping back in time to the 1950s. The facility is very manual-labor intensive and virtually nothing is automated. And while the aircraft manufacturer does use automation to produce the composite fuselages for the Premier and Hawker 4000, it still requires a lot more manual labor than Ford’s automated car plants.

9) Technology transfer. There are many technologies developed for aircraft that have filtered down to automobiles: GPS navigation, enhanced vision, on-board entertainment systems and so on. Ford could incubate new technologies in Hawker Beechcraft airplanes and transfer them to Ford cars when they are perfected. This could give Ford’s auto products a technological edge over competitors.

10) By employing automotive designs, Ford could lower the costs of cabin interiors for Hawker Beechcraft aircraft while at the same time improving their fit and finish. Compare the cabin of the Hawker Beechcraft Bonanza and that of Ford’s Lincoln MKX crossover vehicle, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. The innovative cabin of the in-development HondaJet has drawn heavily on automotive interior expertise at Honda Motor, as well as its Acura luxury car division. So there’s no reason that Ford, and its Lincoln luxury division, couldn’t do the same for Hawker Beechcraft airplanes.

Please use the comment section below to add your thoughts on why Ford should or should not buy Hawker Beechcraft.

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Steve Ells
on August 28, 2012 - 11:28am

Another strong point is that FORD already has the largest corporate foot print at AirVenture--this even though it hasn't built an airplane for 79 years

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Brent
on August 29, 2012 - 12:41am

Why Not?! In fact, a great idea to keep technology and capability in this country. Sure makes me feel better before I buy a Ford or Beechcraft with a "MADE IN USA" logo.

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ghana used cars
on August 30, 2012 - 8:04pm

Everything is very open with a clear description
of the challenges. It was definitely informative.
Your site is useful. Thanks for sharing!

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Steve Cannell
on August 28, 2012 - 12:59pm

Git her done......

But I still think the UAW would find a way to screw up both companies.

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Rex
on August 28, 2012 - 4:30pm

sí gringo

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Tim Kern
on August 28, 2012 - 3:09pm

"Should" Ford buy Hawker Beechcraft?
Yes, for all the reasons you mention.
No, because they won't be able to build new airplanes at a profit. Demand is not sufficient; bureaucratic costs are too high; legal threats are too great.
The parts business, properly managed and assuming rapid prototyping methods could get FAA approval, might be a good business, however; and Ford could take over a lot of the parts business for other marques, as well.

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Chad Trautvetter
on August 28, 2012 - 3:25pm

I don’t buy that aircraft manufacturing can’t be profitable at Hawker Beechcraft. All of the other business jet OEMs are making money right now, despite the down market.

The problem with HBC is that Goldman and Onex didn’t pony up enough R&D funding to keep the products fresh. They spent only a token amount to allow for minor upgrades for their jets (primarily engine upgrades and new cabin interiors), but it wasn’t nearly enough to counter what its competitors (especially Embraer) were spending.

If the acquiring company is willing to put in a proper level of funding for R&D, then Hawker Beechcraft would be much more competitive and could actually make money selling airplanes. Actually, if it wasn’t for its lagging jet division, the company would be in the black right now.

 

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Jeff Wright
on August 28, 2012 - 3:43pm

Right! Nostalgia aside for all of us pilots and aviation history buffs, the idea would have to pencil out for Ford's accountants. You make a good argument that it likely could in fact pencil out if done properly.

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Bill Arrazola
on August 30, 2012 - 3:01pm

This would de great idea and should e very beneficial to both companies for reasons stated .This would ensure that the company would not go by the wayside after the Chinese zap it out of all its resources and technology !

Godspeed to Hawker Beechcraft !!!

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Jeffrey Buckholz, PhD
on August 28, 2012 - 3:30pm

Ford should get back into the air business, but as a manufacturer of carplanes. A company with the financial strength and technical abilities of Ford is exactly what is needed to take carplanes from a $300,000 vehicle of marginal capabilities to a $100,000 vehicle with superior performance. They could be the game changer in this field. Why not look to the future instead of the past?

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Chad Trautvetter
on August 28, 2012 - 3:50pm

Jeffrey, carplanes are a fool’s paradise. Airplane designs are always a compromise, and a carplane requires even more compromise. A carplane will either be a good airplane and a poor car, or a good car and a poor airplane. It will never be a great car or airplane, nor will it ever do both good (and forget about great). I’m speaking about carplanes that use current technology – anti-gravity could certainly be a game changer, here, and all that’s holding this back is the pesky problem of developing a technology scientists have been elusively chasing since the 1960s.

Most pilots want a carplane so they can store it in their garage for free versus paying $400 per month to hangar it at the airport. So the only driving carplanes will see is pretty much between the airport and someone’s garage, and vice versa. A carplane certainly won’t be anyone’s everyday car.

Also, if you want to fly your carplane on a longer trip, a driving trip to the nearest airport will still be required. So what’s the difference here between driving a conventional car to the airport to fly your airplane? There’s no real time savings to a carplane versus a separate car and airplane – you’d still need to do a full preflight inspection at the airport with either a carplane or conventional airplane. So where’s the advantage?

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Ben
on August 30, 2012 - 11:22am

...and another thing nobody seems to consider is the cost of insurance for these airplanes that would drive on the road. A small "fender bender" could be catastrophic to an airplane. Insurance would be insane for these machines. Chad is absolutely correct.

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Jeff Wright
on August 28, 2012 - 3:37pm

Outstanding list and outstanding idea, Mr. Trautvetter! As a past and current owner of many fine Ford products and a pilot and aircraft owner, I for one would love to see Ford return to aircraft manufacturing and retain Hawker Beechcraft as a great American company. It would obviously require a significant change to Ford's current production/marketing goals but Alan Mulally is most definitely the person who could make your idea a reality. He could pull together the right team to get this idea off the ground. I hope that your article has gone to Mr. Mulally and to Ford's Board of Directors for their consideration. Thank you for this fresh thinking.

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Klancy
on August 28, 2012 - 3:52pm

Hmmm.
Nice idea.
But th expense of bringing aircraft through the unnecessarily unwieldy and expensive FAA approval process has spelled doom for many companies. The bizjets might be good, but the trusty reliable Bonanza is built for an American 50 years ago, and the cabin must be widened and a pilot's door added to have a market. The current FAA approval process dooms this effort. Depending on who is in the White House on January 22, the economy may nose-dive again, eliminating the disposable income necessary for the market to afford airplanes.

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John Wagner
on August 28, 2012 - 3:52pm

And, move the manufacturing to Michigan, which has a cadre of skillful workers (if the unions don't screw it up). Additionally, Michigan is finding new vast fields of natural gas, an expensive commodity needed to heat hangars and support manufacturing.

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Rollie Vincent
on August 28, 2012 - 4:01pm

Interesting perspectives - Mulally is also an aero engineering graduate of the University of Kansas.

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bowlin
on August 28, 2012 - 4:02pm

Ford could adopt Hawker composite technology to reduce weight and make the Focus light enough to be adequately powered by the 3-cylinder, 56.5 mpg EcoBoost engine. Ford could also promote more automated manufacturing technology for Beechcraft to reduce production cost and bring the interior finishes that Cirrus has proven the world now expects. Perhaps we would then see a crossover airplane: a composite, 6-seater, single, fixed gear, with 170+kts cruise, and 1100 nm range for $500k including options. We all know what happened to the automotive world after the introduction of the Ford Explorer. The Bonanza replacement is decades overdue.

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OLD JIM(CAPT.)
on August 28, 2012 - 4:03pm

I never thought about it that way, but as things stand right now, I think its a hell of a good idea. I hope the folks or someone from Ford or Hawker Beech for that matter, sees this and give it some serious consideraiton like, LETS DOO THIS.

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Todd
on August 28, 2012 - 4:07pm

1) True, but the cost of "regaining history" may not provide a return on investment for Ford Stock holders. Rosy the Riveter (at least 86 years old now) can bring a lot to the table in getting that new aircraft factory up and running.
2) Nostaligia doesn't pay the bills. But I've been wondering why Ford has such a big tent in Oshkosh.
3) Using this logic, Apple or Google should buy HBC. Just because you have a lot of cash laying around doens't mean it's a good idea. I don't want to burst your bubble but "a couple hundred million" doesn't get you much of a new airplane.
4) If Mullally is as smart as you think he is, then he's smart enough to know that HBC is not Boeing. Boeing only has to run faster than Airbus. HBC has to run faster than Learjet, Cessna, Embraer and compete against Learjet, Cessna, Airbus, and Spirit for talent.
5) Quality is not something you just pour over an airplane design and get happy customers.
6) Pie in the sky. Garmin doesn't just hand out discounts.
7) Automotive engineers and aircraft engineers are both good a playing two totally different games. Considering the history of Daimler engineers playing nice with Chrystler engineers, I doubt this will turn out well.
8) Eclipse tried this, what makes you think Ford can do it ?
9) I'm not so sure about this. HBC doesn't own the technologies you mentioned. HBC can only offer the 1950 sheet metal production skills that you belittle in #10.
10) Ok, it's pretty clear to me that Chad Trautvetter is not an engineer. The entire annual business jet volume of the entire industry is equal to how many hours of production at a single automotive plant. To invest in "quality" and "automation" means buying tools and robots to get a repeatable process. It's possible to do this in the aircraft industry, but it means redesigning, retesting, and recertifying your entire product (prodcut line) to allow those tools to do their job. The cost cannot be recovered unless you plan to build 5000 or 50000 units. Or you can offer the market a super high quality Beech Jet (designed by whom) that costs 10 times more than a gulfstream.

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Chad Trautvetter
on August 28, 2012 - 4:42pm

Todd, you’re right: I’m not an engineer. But I still can have an opinion here. :-)

re 1. HBC already has plenty of trained aircraft workers, so Rosie can stay home and collect Social Security.

re 2. Ford has a big tent at Oshkosh because cars and airplanes go together so well. Pilots love sleek, fast cars; people who love sleek, fast cars are naturally attracted to airplanes.

re 3. Google or Apple do software, not manufacturing. And the manufacturing that Apple does is outsourced…to China. It takes more than money to run an aircraft company – it takes manufacturing know-how. Ford knows manufacturing; not so for Apple, Google, etc.

re. 4. Mulally would relish the challenge. He didn’t shy away from Ford because it competes with GM, Chrysler, Mercedes, BMW, VW, Mazda, Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Opel, Fiat or the dozens of other automakers I haven’t even named.

re. 5. Quality is a process. Ford knows how to make that happen.

re. 6. Garmin would bend over backwards to get Ford’s business for onboard navigation systems. Smartphones are absolutely killing Garmin’s auto GPS business, and they’d hand out discounts all day long to Ford to salvage this part of their business.

re. 7. So what if they’re playing different games? A different perspective is needed every now and then. Do you think we would have been able to successfully land a manned spacecraft on the moon if we used only one type of engineer to do it?

re. 8. Eclipse didn’t revolutionize manufacturing. One would think that Vern Raburn’s smoke and mirrors would have cleared by now.

re. 9. Hawker Beechcraft has extensive composite knowledge. While at Boeing, to whom did Alan Mulally et al come to for early composites testing for the 787? Yeah, that’s right–Hawker Beechcraft. I saw the test panels myself in Wichita.

re. 10. Already said I’m not an engineer. But how come Dassault Falcon could automate some of its Falcon 7X production line and still be able to show a profit and sell the airctraft for a competitive price? It can be done profitably, if the will is there.

 

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George Tsopeis
on August 30, 2012 - 8:55am

I think it's easy to criticize ideas. Solutions to difficult questions always have some element of risk. But if HBC can be had for a price that discounts its entire business aviation lines (as they're beyond salvaging), a Ford buy would be a great idea. Ford Beechcraft sounds like a winner. Great idea Chad.

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Joe
on August 28, 2012 - 4:17pm

I believe Ford has some more reccent experience than the Tri Motor. What about the 8,000 or more B-24 they built in the 1940s?

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Chad Trautvetter
on August 28, 2012 - 4:20pm

Joe, I mentioned this in #1: “though it did build Consolidated B-24 Liberators under license…during World War II.”

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Dave
on August 28, 2012 - 4:17pm

There is one huge thing you're forgetting... that is that Ford's executives are responsible to their shareholders and no one else. Ford would have to invest huge sums of money for not a lot in terms of a garanteed return. They would have to buy the company and then modernize Hawker's plants and processes--which is very expensive--and compete in a market they have no experience in. That's a huge risk with cash Ford can reinvest in it core business and probably get a far better return. Fiduciary duty drives companies, not some sense of nationalism, so I'm not seeing how the cost/benefit ratio works out from Ford's perspective.

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Steve Johnson
on August 28, 2012 - 4:45pm

Ford should not re-enter the aircraft market. Ford is doing well building millions of cars why would they want to build hundreds of airplanes? The Interstate highway system put the brakes on the private aircraft industry. When would this change? You can easily drive 1200 miles with 3 pasengers in a day about what a small plane can do reliably . Jets, perhaps that is what this is really about, can travel further but they are for large businesses and Millionaires and they will get long well without Hawker. Don't for get the oil interests and the government are working against aviation 24/7.

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Chad Trautvetter
on August 28, 2012 - 5:12pm

The interstate highways have virtually nothing to do with the decline of GA. It’s that there are so many liesure activities that flying has to compete with nowadays, not to mention that it takes a lot of someone’s time to learn to fly.  I can bungee jump today just by handing over some cash to someone; to learn to fly requires dedication and commitment, and many people are instant-gratification types these days. That’s where GA’s problems lie.

Piston aircraft aren’t for millionaires – many regular Joes own and fly four-seat airplanes. Your hypothetical 1,200-mile trip can be done in well under half the time in a Beech Bonanza, even though the aircraft design dates back to the 1950s.

I don’t subscribe to the theory that government and oil interests are against aviation. From 2008 until last year, GA aircraft (inlcuding pistons) were eligible for bonus depreciation, so the government was in fact encouraging aircraft purchases via extra tax deductions. And the oil industry seems quite happy to sell 100LL and jet-A – both are readily available in the U.S.

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Ford Engineering Retiree Rich
on August 28, 2012 - 4:59pm

Ford under Jacque Nassar went on a buying binge and bought all sorts of companies with an intent of diversifying from the auto industry. We saw where that went as Ford began to quickly lose tons of money and eventually ended up selling all of Nassar's follies at a huge loss.
Enter Alan Mullally with his One Plan, One Ford mantra and we all see where that has taken the company. The only American auto company to not need a government bailout, and today, it looks like the future is great for the next few weeks. Fewer platforms, economies of scale, and operating in an environment that Ford knows very well.
No, Ford does not need a miniscule partner like HBC. Some of the technology at Ford, still in the research stage, is far advanced from anything that HBC could offer. If the market can not support HBC today, then maybe HBC should be just like the hundreds of auto companies of the past and enter bankruptcy gracefully.

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Day Trader
on August 28, 2012 - 6:32pm

IMHO HBC does not have the functional components to be a going concern and therefore has very little value. Ford is way too smart to go anywhere near this rotting corpse. Where are the new products in the pipeline, the R&D, the other elements HBC needs to move forward and compete? They're simply not there. What "management" remains seems more interested in lining their own pockets with retention bonuses, a move rightfully beaten down by the bankruptcy judge. What value there is is in product support and that makes HBC a parts and pieces sale, likely with several different buyers who will break the place up. HBC's sins were myriad, committed over many decades and several owners. There is no happy ending here.

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Dave White
on August 28, 2012 - 7:15pm

With Ford products now at #10 in reliability for maintenance among cars, including my 2006 F-250 4x4 with only 56,000 miles on it which has been in the shop for numerous problems both mechanical and electrical; as a professional pilot, I won't consider a Ford product for aviation until they clean up their automotive troubles. We all want Hawker Beechcraft to remain all-American, but Ford has to prove to me that they are reliable first for a few years before I shell out six figures on a Ford produced aircraft. Just calling the baby ugly because it is right now from where we are sitting.

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Cary
on August 28, 2012 - 8:18pm

I've never owned a Ford car, but, If they buy HBC and keep it from the Chinese I'll buy a new Ford car the next day.

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Dietrich Fecht
on August 28, 2012 - 10:50pm

I tried a few years ago to buy new Ford automotive engines as a basis for a new aircraft engine development from Ford Power Products Europe. https://www.fordpowerproducts.com/powerproducts/index.htm . Unfortunately Ford has rejected the sale of Ford engines for use in aircraft.

Maybe that will change one day.

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Bobby Mac
on August 29, 2012 - 12:44pm

Hawker-Beech-Ford certainly has a much better ring than China-Hawker-Beech, but the auto business is tough enough as it is without throwing in an even tough aviation business. However if ford can figure out a way to make it work I would love it.

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TED MONTANA
on August 29, 2012 - 12:56pm

FORD DID NOT NEED GOV. BAIL OUT! HAWKER-BEECHCRAFT STAYS IN AMERICAN HANDS!! IT IS THE RIGHT THING FOR BOTH CO.'S!!

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A/C Fastener/Hardware Girl
on August 29, 2012 - 3:18pm

Prayer's for Hawker Beechcraft!...long live HBC!...keep it American owned and operated!

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Mike
on August 29, 2012 - 5:05pm

I've had a Ford Freestyle for 5 years. Has some issues with it at 134000 miles, but a great car for space and mileage. Their latest lineup of vehicles is sharp, well built, new technolgy, and competitively priced - and made in the USA. As a pilot, I've always admired Beechcraft. From the Staggerwing, the T34, and the recognizable Bonanza, they don't get much better for what they were designed to do. Hawker jets are still excellent aircraft. Good management and drive can take this thing and make it happen. I, too, like the sound of Ford Hawker Beechcraft. Yes, it would take some good management, but initially improving upon what they have can reap rewards and profits early if they can get a nitch in pricing and quality. Dropping in new instrumentation, good interior styling, and exterior paint, advanced engines, and a strong dealership/service network can move things quickly forward. There certainly are technologies and engineering efforts that can be shared between Ford automobilies and aviation. When you think that Ford broke down the manufacturing of B-24's into sub-assemblies and produce one aircraft every 55 minutes or so, yah!, they could make it happen. I, too, would buy another Ford right away should they take the leap! Go USA!! Go Ford!!

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Skip Gustafson
on August 30, 2012 - 1:17am

The New Beachcraft could take a large share of the 90-300 market with the best seat in the house. An aircraft with their size in a Single Turbine. Many Countries
are buying and flying that A/C right now in the Pilatus PC-12 with more on order. With the Beech Network and their quality world wide they could get a good market share. Small Airlines need a stretch single engine, private business needs an afforable aircraft. At 300 Kts and a 1200-1500 mile range and a good long range cruise number you could have a winner. The Ford take over could make it happen. Dare to dream!
My Uncle worked with Ford in Iron Mountain, Michigan on the Woody. and loved it.

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Chris Coombs
on August 30, 2012 - 6:38pm

Would be nice to keep the company in the USA. As far as quality, sorry to all the Beech employees, but quality and customer support suck to put it nicely. HBC tried to turn the customer service around and did for awhile but it just fell right back into the pit. I've worked on numerous other aircraft and I always disliked the Beech products. Over engineered, carried to many of the same problems on from one model to the next, poor design.......

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Sean O'Farrell
on August 31, 2012 - 4:25am

Brilliant idea Chad and one I hope Ford seriously considers. The Ford Logo is the most recognisable and trusted car brand in the world. The publicity and goodwill attached to such a move would be immense, and in my view would generate huge additional car sales for the Ford Motor Company worldwide.

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Mike Dempsey
on August 31, 2012 - 11:14am

I think this would be an absolute train-wreck of a solution for both companies!

First, HBC does not need to inherit another level of bureaucracy, it already has one installed. The culture within the company is so out of tune with business, that it is going to take a long time...and capital to resolve the internal problems.

I have dealt with HBC first hand regarding the business of doing business, and they just don't get it. Lets take a look at the products and let you decide.

First, without the King Air line HBC is dead in the water. The King Air is a great airplane, I have over 4,000 flight hours PIC in various examples. I have talked with engineering about improving the airframe, that creates more utility from the airframe...and get this, gives me a reason to buy a NEW airplane! Deer in the headlights looks.

Second, if you look at Embraer and the Phenom series of airplanes, you will find the total direct cost of operation is 1/3 that of the King Air series. The multiple inspections required both calendar and time is very costly to the operator, and should be looked at closely as Embraer figured it out. Reduce this cost of redundant inspections, which with engineering improvements you could reduce this approximately 50% and still maintain safety. I believe there may be some liability reasons why they have required certain inspections, but someone needs to take a look at the big picture and start thinking about reducing this cost...else the King Air will become extinct!

Third, look at the last 20 years of aircraft designs that have been launched with HBC. The Bonanaza/Barron line needs serious and major improvements, either modifications or complete re-design of this product is necessary. Second, the Beech Starship was a good airplane that could have been refined and became practical for ownership, it may have been too far ahead of its time. Third, the Hawker 800/850 is an old airframe that just doesn't have a lot more you can do with it, but at minimum figure out an external baggage hold...else, you won't be able to sell this airframe! Fourth, the Premier 1A/II is a nice sized airplane, economical...but terrible runway performance! It needs more wing, could be stretched, but the wing is the thing and this airplane needs too much runway to make it an alternative to the Phenom 300/Cessna CJ4! Fifth, the Hawker 4000 took a long time in development which always hurts sales and excitement.

Internally, HBC is nothing but a lack of accountability and business development! They leave huge sums of money on the table regarding factory support and facility business, there is nothing but incompetence any way you look at it. They never understood the car business is similar to aviation manufacturing in that the profit isn't necessarily int he big ticket sale, but is more geared toward servicing the customer...that is where the profitability long term comes from. However, HBS doesn't know one damn thing about developing this side of the business, either because of a lack of leadership, or just plain incompetence.

As stated, I have met with senior management level personal with HBC, and they essentially are the mindset that you show up for your job, send out a few memos...and everything is fine! Someone with some serious business acumen can figure out what is wrong with this company. I am not sure if these managers hands are tied and they are just going through the motion, or if they are really in a culture of not getting it, which is what I think the problem is. They need to have a director of business that requires growth strategies and outside the box thinking to move the company forward again.

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Chad Trautvetter
on August 31, 2012 - 11:47am

Mike,

All of the problems you describe are exactly the things that Ford could fix, as it has the expertise to do so. I would think that Hawker Beechcraft finally having a parent company that truly understands manufacturing of complex machines, and the management of such a manufacturing company, would vastly outweigh any of the negatives. Ford could clean house and install management that “gets it,” while at the same time funding R&D for badly needed product upgrades and new models.

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pilotman46
on August 31, 2012 - 11:28am

It's difficult to transfer technology or processes from an industry player that builds a few million vehicles every year to one that builds a few hundred planes.Clearly, Mulally has the talent to assess the situation, but typically when the car manufacturers get into other industries, it doesn't work. Ford will stay focused on what they do best. Ford's legacy is automotive, not that they built 199 planes nearly as century ago.

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Dave Eskelson
on August 31, 2012 - 1:20pm

Just like Honda and HondaJet! Rather than Ford, in fact it will probably be more realistic for Honda to buy and integrate HBC into the HondaJet development operations. Honda would have an instant sales organization, aftermarket support capability, and a government business.

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Chad Trautvetter
on August 31, 2012 - 2:19pm

Dave,

That’s not a bad idea, either. I was just trying to figure out a solution that would keep HBC an American-owned company.

There is one glitch to Honda buying all of HBC – being owned by a foreign company, Honda wouldn’t be able to acquire Hawker’s government/military business. That division would either have to be spun off on its own or be bought by an American company.

But I like your thinking…

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jason jamal
on September 1, 2012 - 5:46pm

No Ford still has price and quality issues, and Beechcraft plus the Hawker company have seriously old designs.

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Mark Consigny
on September 4, 2012 - 10:02am

"Quality is job 1". Really? I don't know how many Ford models shared the electrical problems my 1998 Expedition had, but I know for a fact that a 1993 Taurus had the problem, as did a 2003 Taurus, and I recently saw what looked to be a late model F150 sitting in a parking lot with the interior/bed lights blazing away long after it was parked. My Exped also had the faulty cruise control which made it subject to bursting into flame spontaneously. For years, Ford sent me postcards every six months telling me to take it to a dealership so they could disable the CC, but Ford NEVER made the repair parts available to actually fix the problem (no wonder they're so profitable). I'm no longer waiting, as a broken camshaft turned the engine into scrap metal, in my mechanic's opinion as a result of a factory assembly defect. Ford airplanes? I'll pass, thanks.

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GMan
on September 4, 2012 - 11:38am

HBC should 'go out' gracefully. Once a marque yet no longer. They have failed to invest in R&D sufficiently compared to Embraer and Bombardier. Old models and old technology which ultimately leads to dwindling sales. The board have only themselves to blame. Better aircraft are available elsewhere, notably Brazil and Canada.

You cannot compare the supply chains of the aerospace and automotive sectors they are completely different and well established. Many time i have met with Presidents of engineering firms who steer clear of aerospace because; a) the certification and approvals, b) difficult market to break into c) volumes aren't high enough d) long lead times

ford should stick to what they know and build average cars. Honda is an example of how it can be done. they build great reliable cars and no doubt the HondaJet will be the same (early indications is that they will be)because they make quality cars and invest in R&D, lean processes, their people...need i go on???

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Jim Mago
on September 8, 2012 - 10:16am

I don't see any "buy" recommendations from anyone claiming to be a Ford shareholder.

Ford does not need the liabilities that come with aviation products, which in this case are generally based on 40 or more year old designs.

The Beech/Raytheon/Hawker product line has been for sale more years than not, over the past 15 years or so. Everyone has looked at them. This is an investment banking game of musical chairs. Ford does not have any reason to jump in, and risk being the last one standing.

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larry dimarco
on September 20, 2012 - 2:47pm

please keep it on american soil,ford i hope, so many american companies have been slaughtered 1piece at time- for profit only, i know it sounds tuff but look at giant food-how ahold cut it up and sold it off- diminishing many decent paying union jobs, may the good lord watch over us.

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larry dimarco
on September 20, 2012 - 2:47pm

please keep it on american soil,ford i hope, so many american companies have been slaughtered 1piece at time- for profit only, i know it sounds tuff but look at giant food-how ahold cut it up and sold it off- diminishing many decent paying union jobs, may the good lord watch over us.

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Gort-klaatu
on October 3, 2012 - 12:04am

The logic does not make sense.

Ford really does not have the extra cash to do it. Ford has itself deeply in debt and is still in transition to become a better world wide player. Ford needs to keeps its eye on its target. A Ford purchase would be a financial pit not unlike Jaguar, Volvo etc. The financial market would punish Ford.

Fords improved high volume manufacturing techniques have little application to low volume aircraft manufacturing. The reason executive aircraft are nearly handmade is their low volume sales market. In my opinion, executive aircraft interpreted quality still blows away anything a mass producer can do. Ford is not the best automotive interior.

Beech Hawker best place would be Bombardiar or something similar.

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