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Thu, Sep 07, 2006

Columbia Aircraft Puts Bend Factory On A Diet

Adopts Lean Manufacturing Practices

Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corporation told ANN Wednesday of further improvements in the manufacturing processes at its Bend, OR factory -- that will enable the company to maintain its current production volume and improve ROI.

By relying on established and proven Lean Manufacturing practices, Columbia will be able to reduce the amount of time required to manufacture an aircraft and gain some relief from inflationary pressures resultant from rising costs for energy, raw materials and components.

"The decision to adopt Lean Manufacturing principles was made 12 months ago," stated Bing Lantis, president & CEO of Columbia. "However the short-term need to rapidly increase production in order to meet growing demand and reduce the backlog superseded the Lean initiative."

This meant adding more production employees, increasing the footprint of the manufacturing facility & increasing inventories. That phase is complete and daily production volume is commensurate with demand. Now a Lean Manufacturing team will help Columbia improve efficiency across all manufacturing operations.

Numerous changes will occur in the coming months, as Columbia adopts Lean Principles that focus on improving manufacturing and on-time customer deliveries.

"We expect the Lean process to produce significant financial benefits and manufacturing efficiencies over the next 12 - 18 months without sacrificing the high quality product and customer experience that are hallmarks of Columbia Aircraft," Lantis added.

Columbia sales increased 350% in the 2006 calendar year compared to 2005 -- and the backlog rests at a comfortable 90 days. "Our business is strong, our backlog is solid and it’s time to shift our focus internally to determine how we can be a more efficient manufacturing company," Lantis concluded.

Columbia manufactures a variety of all-composite aircraft including the world’s fastest certified piston single -– the Columbia 400. The Columbia 350, 350i, 350SL and 350SLX are normally aspirated, four-place aircraft with a cruise speed of 191 knots. The Columbia 400, 400i, 400SL and 400SLX are intercooled, twin-turbocharged, four-place aircraft certified to FL250 with a cruise speed of 235 knots.

FMI: www.flycolumbia.com

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