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Tue, May 08, 2007

Columbia Aircraft Recalls First Wave Of Furloughed Employees

Expects Remaining Workers To Be Recalled In Stages

Six weeks after Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing announced a significant restructuring effort -- including what the company stressed would be the temporary furlough of 185 employees -- the Bend, OR planemaker announced the first wave of those employees will return to work this week.

"We’re recalling the furloughed employees in stages to meet the demands of our accelerating production rate," said Columbia Vice President of Manufacturing Chris Redgrave. "Essentially, we’ve spent the past six weeks cleaning house on our production line, upgrading tooling and implementing a number of Lean Enterprise practices to enhance efficiency. We’re now bringing back our associates as production demands dictate."

Columbia representatives tell ANN the first furloughed employees who are being recalled work in the assembly, upholstery and subassembly departments. Redgrave says he expects to recall the remaining furloughed employees in subsequent stages, and that their benefits will remain in place through June, if needed.

"We’re very appreciative of the understanding of those who have stuck with us through this process," Redgrave said. "During the past six weeks, we’ve kept in regular contact with our furloughed employees and held two Lean Enterprise training sessions in anticipation of their return to work."

Columbia continues to deliver aircraft at a rate of four per week. Though the company doesn't release sales figures, Redgrave reports Q1 2007 aircraft deliveries exceeded 2006 levels.

As Aero-News reported, Columbia laid off approximately 10 percent of its workforce in March, 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.

Two weeks after the planemaker announced those layoffs, Columbia announced its restructuring March 22, in order to give the company the opportunity to refine production, and implement Lean Manufacturing and Lean Enterprise processes improvements. Under that restructuring, Wan Abd Majid stepped in as the company's new CEO, replacing former CEO Bing Lantis.

FMI: www.flycolumbia.com

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