U.S. Air Force Decision Bombs in Wichita

With the U.S. light aircraft industry still in a financial tailspin, it’s hard to comprehend the recent Air Force decision favoring a Brazilian plane-maker over Wichita, KS-based Hawker Beechcraft for a $1 billion contract to build a new light air support aircraft.

The issue of using U.S. tax dollars to create aerospace jobs in Brazil becomes even more outrageous in light of the Air Force’s inexplicable decision to exclude Hawker Beechcraft from even bidding on the contract.

For more than a year, Hawker Beechcraft has worked closely with Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Air Force to develop the single-engine AT-6 specifically to meet the contract’s criteria.

Awarding the contract to Hawker Beechcraft would support over 1,400 American jobs in 18 states, including 800 IAM-represented jobs at Hawker Beechcraft in Wichita, KS. By contrast, awarding the contract to Brazil’s Embraer would create hundreds of jobs in South America but only 50 U.S. jobs at a non-union, final assembly facility.

In addition to excluding Hawker Beechcraft from bidding on the contract, the U.S. Air Force is refusing to provide a customary explanation for its decision and the reasons for the exclusion. If allowed to stand, the Air Force decision would essentially make Brazil’s Embraer the sole bidder on a key defense contract.

“The extent to which the Air Force is bending over backwards to favor a foreign contractor is reminiscent of the refueling tanker controversy and creates serious questions about the process and the personnel involved,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “Congress needs to ensure our tax dollars are used to support the U.S. aerospace industrial base and the high-skilled, high-wage jobs that America so desperately needs.”