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Thu, Mar 22, 2007

Columbia Aircraft Announces Major Restructuring Effort

Lantis Out As CEO; 185 Employees Furloughed

ANN REALTIME REPORTING 03.22.07 1800 EDT: Two weeks after Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing announced the layoffs of 59 workers, representatives with the Bend, OR planemaker tell ANN the company has undergone a significant management and workforce restructuring.

Bing Lantis has resigned as Chief Executive Officer of the planemaker, with long-time Columbia Aircraft and aviation industry veteran Wan Abd Majid stepping in as the company's new CEO. Majid and the Company's Board of Directors also appointed new executives to other senior management positions -- including Chief Restructuring Officer, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer.

Columbia officials also announced the temporary furlough of 185 employees, in order to give the company the opportunity to refine production and more aggressively pursue Lean Manufacturing and Lean Enterprise processes improvements.

"Our people are our most valuable resource," said Majid. "However, the nature of the aviation industry and the realities of our current business situation require that we take a number of critical short-term actions to ensure our long-term success. The fact that we must temporarily furlough a portion of our highly-skilled workforce is an unfortunate consequence of timing. Still, Columbia is committed to do everything possible to care for our dedicated employees during this improvement process to ensure that they return to a stronger company with an even brighter future."

Columbia states the company will continue to provide medical benefits for furloughed employees and dependents. The company will also invite furloughed employees to participate in Lean Manufacturing training sessions to prepare for their return to work, and will maintain contact with them regarding their status and anticipated Return to Work dates. The company also plans to provide a return-to-work cash incentive.

Columbia management says they expect to recall all furloughed employees in four- to- six- weeks. In that time, tooling will be upgraded at the company's Bend, OR production facility. New process improvements will be implemented, and resolution of customer service issues will be accelerated. Columbia's remaining 335 employees will continue to deliver customer aircraft at the normal four aircraft per week rate.

Backing Majid will the new senior management of Carl Young, CRO; Michael Culver, COO and Rich Reighard, CFO. Columbia states Young, Culver and Reighard each have extensive business management experience, including backgrounds with several aviation-related companies.

"In the coming months we will improve the Company in a number of areas including production efficiency and customer care," said Majid. "We're committed to making Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation an industry leader for years to come and providing an ownership experience that is second to none. These initial changes are tangible evidence of the beginning of a metamorphosis. We are all very excited about what is on the horizon for our employees and customers."

As Aero-News reported earlier this month, Columbia laid off approximately 10 percent of its workforce, in an attempt to curb the effects from a series of financial roundhouses the company took in 2006. Despite achieving record sales and deliveries for the year, the company was also hit with a six-month certification delay for its Garmin G1000 glass panel installation.

Just over two months after that certification was achieved, the planemaker was hit with a freak June hailstorm that necessitated the refinishing of more than 60 aircraft parked on the ramp, awaiting delivery.

FMI: www.flycolumbia.com

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