$200K Investment Had Potential of Turning $10 Million
Chrison Aerospace, based in
Middlebury, VT is knee-deep in a lawsuit filed by its former
business partner, Colorado firm Pacific Aeromotive Corp., that
seeks to expel Chrison from their business relationship of
refurbishing an Airbus A300 shot down by insurgents in Baghdad more
than three years ago.
Pacific is accusing Chrison of trying to sell components of the
aircraft to recover from financial difficulties rather than working
to complete the potentially lucrative restoration project. The two
companies had joined forces to restore and sell the plane.
Pacific attorney John Sartore said during opening statements in
US District Court Tuesday morning a judge could just order the
partnership dissolved. Such an action could prompt the auctioning
of the plane, parts and equipment that are currently scattered
throughout five countries.
"Somebody should have been in control, but unfortunately nobody
was, and that's what brings us here today," Sartore said in court,
referring to the 50-50 business venture. "It was well-maintained,
well-equipped, and it was a valuable aircraft... There was the
potential for a high reward, but the risks were obvious."
On the other hand, Chrison's attorney counters the company and
its owner, Jack Downey, would prefer to keep the relationship
intact and continue working toward the original goal. That plan,
said lawyer James Foley Jr., was not simply to fix and resell the
plane, but to turn a profit, according to the Burlington, Vermont,
Pacific feels Chrison had "taken advantage" of Downey's unique
skills in forging relationships with business partners and
government agencies, according to Foley.
"The purpose was to make money," Foley said. "From a pessimistic
view, now would be a good time to get rid of him. They were in
Baghdad, in a war zone, trying to pull an airplane out, taking a
flier. The project was changing all the time."
The small companies began their relationship in 2005, shortly
after Pacific's owner, Paul Page, purchased the extensively damaged
Airbus for $200,000, according to the attorneys' opening arguments.
The potential profit was "tremendous" and if plane were to be fully
restored, it would more than likely have commanded $7 million to
$10 million on the open market, Sartore said.
Should the judge simply end the partnership, Foley argued, the
pieces should be sold in a way to prevent Pacific from buying the
components at auction for probable deep discounts.
As ANN reported, the A300 was
shot down over Baghdad in November 2003 with a shoulder-fired
missile that hit the left wing and fuel tank. The pilots, flying
for shipping company DHL, managed to land the crippled aircraft
back to Baghdad International Airport in what Sartore called "a
stunning feat." The Airbus made a hard landing and skidded off the
runway before tearing through open desert and taking out a
No one was injured.
Insurers totaled the plane and put it up for sale. The hope was
to patch it then fly it to a neutral site to make final repairs
before attempting a sale.
Both sides agree the arrangement began to sour last summer after
both companies had already invested more than $1 million in the
project. The aim of the trial is to establish the reason business
went bad and will be decided by Chief Judge William Sessions III
rather than a jury.