Archive for Thursday, November 6, 2008

Bombardier prepares to add jobs despite economy’s woes

November 6, 2008

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— Bombardier Aerospace said Wednesday that plans for its new Learjet 85 assembly line and the added Wichita jobs that come with it are still on track, despite the financial crisis.

That is good news for a city shaken by back-to-back announcements earlier this week of labor cutbacks by two other business jet manufacturers.

On Monday, Hawker Beechcraft told employees it would cut nearly 500 jobs, or 5 percent of its work force. The next day Cessna Aircraft said it also planned unspecified production and work force reductions.

Bombardier spokesman Leo Knaapen said the company is hiring between 500 and 700 people to work at the Wichita plant on Learjet 85.

The company will be putting in its Learjet 85 assembly line at the same time it is meeting strong market demands for its Learjet 60, Learjet 45 and Learjet 40 planes, Knaapen said.

Some engineering jobs for the Learjet 85 already have been filled, and assembly line jobs will be added within the next two years, Knaapen said. The company plans to begin making changes at the Wichita plant next year to accommodate what will be the company's fourth production line.

"This is a pretty exciting time. This is pretty much a growth time for us," Knaapen said, adding the company has a solid backlog and significant new orders.

Bombardier had an exceptionally strong first half this year, he said, and in May forecast a slowdown in the latter half of 2008. The company is experiencing the anticipated softening in the third quarter.

"We had forecast that even before the financial crisis, but nonetheless we still have a relatively good intake order right now," Knaapen said.

Bombardier employs 28,000 people worldwide, including 2,800 employees and 300 contract workers at its Wichita plant. The company had 2,300 employees at the start of the year.

The anticipated layoffs at Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft are coming as the financial crisis hits business jet manufacturers. But Bombardier was more upbeat about its own prospects.

"The fact is that Bombardier Learjet has been more of an internationally focused company," Knaapen said, "than either Cessna or Hawker."

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