Judge Orders Partnership for Epic Aircraft
'Shotgun wedding' for China Aviation, LT Builders Group
April 5, 2010 — U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Randall Dunn will let China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. Ltd., a firm owned by the Chinese government, purchase Epic Aircraft but only if it hammers out a partnership with LT Builders Group by Thursday (April 8). The builders group is comprised of some of the owners of 15 aircraft still locked in the former Epic Aircraft facility in Bend, Oregon.
The ruling on Friday (April 2) allows China Aviation access to Epic technology which industry observers say the company wants to jump start the fledgling general aviation market in China. But it in order for China Aviation to do that; Dunn says they must also give LT Builders Group a U.S. license to manufacture the aircraft in Bend.
“I was pleased that the judge found a way to at least attempt to keep the business in Oregon and to re-establish the business, hopefully at the Bend airport,” said Gary Firestone, Bend assistant city attorney told The Oregonian . “Putting some of those capable, talented people to work will be good.”
The third bidder in the original auction, Harlow Aerostructures of Kansas, has been an outside player in the subsequent negotiations, mostly waiting to see if Dunn was going to finalize the sale to China Aviation or have a chance to partner with LT Builders Group. After Friday’s hearing, Harlow Aerostructures Chief Executive Officer Phil Friedman said he won’t wait to see how the judge rules this week. Friedman is proceeding ahead with side negotiations with the builder’s group to form a partnership with the goal of certifying Epic as a production aircraft, which he would like to see happen in the United States instead of China.