A blockbuster product, the Hawker 4000 is the Dreamliner of the business jet industry.
, Wichita, Kan.-based
, the second-largest business jet maker, set out to make a composite aircraft.
Distinguished by its composite fuselage, powerful engines and advanced avionics, the 4000 was introduced in June. The manufacturer billed the $20 million aircraft, which seats 10 to 12 passengers, as "the most advanced and luxurious super-midsize business jet in the world."
Hawker Beechcraft had worked toward building a composite aircraft since the 1980s, when it designed the Beechcraft Starship.
"This was a company that in the 1980s rolled the dice on composite," says Charles Mayer, vice president of marketing. "It was 70% stronger than aluminum, it was lighter, it was futuristic, a whole new way to make airplanes -- and it was an abysmal failure."
The diversion of management focus, the high costs, and the delays in federal certification enable
, which decided to stick with aluminum, to pass Beechcraft as the leading business jet maker -- a spot it has retained. Cessna is owned by
Today, sales of the 4000 are holding up, despite the economy. "You can say, 'Wow, it would have been great to deliver this into a booming market,' but we did it in enough time to get a big backlog," says Mayer. "It's a compelling enough (product) go keep consumers hooked. If there is an aircraft we don't have trouble moving, it's the 4000."
A second bright spot for Hawker Beechcraft, jointly owned by
and Canadian investment firm Onyx, is its defense business. In a recent report, Standard & Poor's noted that the company derives about 10% of its revenues from production of a primary trainer aircraft for the U.S. Air Force and Navy under a sole-source, long-term contract. Another 10% to 15% is derived from parts, maintenance and service sales. Revenues are about $3 billion. As of Dec. 31, the company had a backlog of $7.6 billion, more than two years of production.