Sales Remain Strong... But Cert Delays, Hail Take Their
Leaner times in Bend, OR... as Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing
Corporation told ANN Thursday the planemaker has been forced to lay
off 59 employees, out of the company's total workforce of 605, in
order to offset the financial impact of what the company termed "a
cascade of unanticipated events."
Columbia officials point out that in 2006, sales and deliveries
of Columbia aircraft reached unprecedented levels -- and that sales
for both aircraft types continue to be healthy. However, a
six-month certification delay for the Garmin G1000 glass panel
installation, along with a June hailstorm that necessitated the
refinishing of more than 60 aircraft, has hampered the planemaker's
ability to operate profitably.
"We actually increased our staffing level in the last 18 months
in an effort to not only maintain our production of new aircraft at
a level that matches our order rate, but also to refinish the
aircraft harmed in the hail storm," Columbia President and CEO Bing
Lantis told ANN. "At one point last year, we were above 700
employees. As this additional work has been completed, we’ve
gradually reduced our workforce naturally through attrition.
Unfortunately, we now need to make more sizable adjustments to our
workforce to balance it with our production needs."
Columbia representatives tell ANN the chain of events leading to
the layoffs began in October 2005, when the company announced its
intent to certify the integrated Garmin G1000 avionics
suite. The new panel was met with great interest, and
several orders -- but a six-month certification delay kept those
planes from getting into customers' hands. To make matters worse,
in June 2006 a freak hailstorm damaged the
aircraft on the ramp awaiting certification.
Although the company was able to maintain its workforce and
production rate during those two events, Columbia says it was
unable to deliver the volume of aircraft required to sustain its
expanding workforce. In November, Columbia attempted to offset some
of the fallout by cutting hours for approximately 400
workers -- but it soon became clear more drastic
measures would be needed.
Lantis stated Columbia does not expect to make additional staff
cuts, but that more layoffs may be necessary as the Company
continues to refine its production efficiency and implement its
Lean Manufacturing practices.
Columbia stresses the company continues to build and deliver
aircraft, and maintains a 90 day backlog of orders.