Jet finisher to open LR-area plant

Posted: June 18, 2014 at 2:35 a.m.

An offshoot of French firm JCB Aero plans to open a plant in the Little Rock area in the near future, though the parent company declined to say where and how big the facility will be.

An article in Aviation International News reports that JCB Aero hopes the spinoff, Beaudet Aviation, will employ 130-150 in three years.

JCB Aero has done completion work for Dassault Falcon in France, according to the article. Dassault Falcon is undergoing a $65 million expansion and upgrade at its completions plant at Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field.

JCB Aero has delivered custom furniture for Dassault Falcon's model 7X business jet and "installed it at Dassault's Merignac[-Bordeaux] factory," JCB Aero sales director Pierre Mandelli is quoted by Aviation International News as saying May 19.

"[Mandelli] said there are more on order and he stressed that JCB performs only some of the completions done in Merignac, which represents a fraction of Falcon completions (most are done in Little Rock, Arkansas)," the article stated.

Within the past eight months, Dassault Falcon has announced that it was introducing the 5X business jet, and last month it unveiled the 8X, both of which will be completed in Little Rock.

A Dassault Falcon official said in March that jobs will be added to the completions plant, which employed between 1,800 and 1,900, according to the company's last statement on employment.

Andrew Ponzoni, senior manager for communications for Dassault Falcon, did not answer questions Tuesday about whether Dassault might outsource some of its Little Rock work to Beaudet Aviation.

The airport is not currently in talks with anyone about leasing the former Hawker Beechcraft completions facility , which is also at the airport, said Ron Mathieu, executive director of the airport.

"We don't currently have a fish on the hook," Mathieu said. However, he said he had heard that JCB Aero was in the market for a location, though it had expressed no interest in the former Hawker Beechcraft space.

The 400,000-square-foot Hawker Beechcraft complex has seven buildings on almost 46 acres, including a large ramp, hangars, a facility to paint aircraft and other specialized space.

Hawker Beechcraft emerged last year from bankruptcy reorganization and shed its jet business, which meant it no longer needed its Little Rock complex for finishing and customizing Hawker aircraft. The company is now known as Beechcraft Corp. and is still based in Wichita, Kan.

JCB Aero is "still negotiating regarding the location," spokesman Corrine Cellier said in an email Tuesday. She declined to address any other details.

Little Rock lawyer Graham Catlett filed incorporation papers with the Arkansas secretary of state's office for Beaudet Aviation on March 10.

He said by telephone Tuesday that it might be a month before the full details are revealed.

Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said that "we are aware of the company and its interest in Arkansas but have to stick to policy and can't comment on our projects."

Business on 06/18/2014