The Martinsburg, WV Airplane Builder Finally Folds
Tiger Aircraft filed for Chapter 7
bankruptcy on January 16 in a US bankruptcy court. Papers filed
listed assets of $3.2 million and $929,000 in debt. Not included in
the filing is $4 million worth of bonds sold to build the
Martinsburg manufacturing plant.
Under Chapter 7 rules, the company's assets will be liquidated
to pay its debts, but it's not known how the court will approach
the bonds. West Virginia's Economic Development Authority, the
bond's issuer, is not considered a creditor and as such has no
claim to any Tiger assets. The state agency remains the title
holder of Tiger's manufacturing plant -- its only concession.
Tiger's original plan to resurrect a modern version of an
aircraft design dating back to the late 1960s followed a
successful similar return to production for Cessna's venerable 172
and 182 models.
US Senator Jay Rockefeller, who played a key role in attracting
Taiwanese investors to West Virginia and Tiger, said in a
statement, "I continue to watch for and encourage economic and job
opportunities in our state. And although Tiger's venture in the
Eastern Panhandle has seen more than its share of highs and lows,
I'm hopeful that if Tiger's assets are used in the future, they are
used in West Virginia."
The company's business plan when it opened its doors in 2001 was
to produce 70 aircraft per year in a $30 million manufacturing
facility employing 400. Sadly, history tells a different
In Tiger's best year -- 2004 -- sales reached their zenith of
$3.1 million; it's been a steady descent for the company since. In
2005, the factory shipped 15 planes, then only three for the first
ten months of 2006.
Tiger employed 60 at one time,
but layoffs held close formation with declining sales throughout
2005 and 2006.
The company's poor sales performance led to the loss of Tiger's
vice president of sales last May, then company president Gene Criss
in August. Its court filings say Tiger's board voted to enter
bankruptcy last July.
According to the Martinsburg Journal, Tiger’s office
building was empty on Monday. No cars were in the parking lot, no
flags were flying from the poles standing in the building’s
driveway, and the building was dark.