March 8 Beechcraft Corp said on Friday it will
formally protest the U.S. Air Force's decision to award a $428
million contract for light attack planes for the Afghan military
to Brazil's Embraer SA.
After a politically charged bidding process, Embraer and its
U.S.-based partner, Sierra Nevada, won the deal on Feb. 27 to
supply 20 light attack planes to be used in Afghanistan
Beechcraft, formerly known as Hawker Beechcraft, emerged
from Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month. The aircraft maker said
in a statement that the Air Force decision puts 1,400 jobs in
jeopardy in Kansas, where it is based, and other states.
In a statement, Beechcraft Chief Executive Bill Boisture
said his company was "very perplexed" by the Air Force decision
and would file a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability
Office (GAO) based on concerns that there were mistakes in the
"We simply don't understand how the Air Force can justify
spending over 40 percent more - over $125 million more - for
what we consider to be less capable aircraft," Boisture said.
Beechcraft said it decided to launch a formal protest after
a debriefing with the Air Force earlier this week.
Embraer and Sierra Nevada won an initial $355 million
contract in December 2011, but that deal was scrapped after a
challenge from Hawker Beechcraft, the losing bidder.
The competition has had political overtones. Brazilian
officials expressed dismay last year when the original award to
Embraer was withdrawn, and political fallout from Beechcraft
losing out to the Brazilian company seeped into the U.S.
presidential election campaign.
In a statement on Friday, Embraer and Sierra Nevada said the
Air Force weighed pricing, mission capability and past
performance in deciding the latest contest.
"Given the strength of our proposal and the thoroughness of
the U.S. Air Force's evaluation process, it is unfortunate that
Beechcraft is now protesting the Light Air Support contract
award once again," the companies said.
On Friday, the International Association of Machinists and
Aerospace Workers union, which represents more than 3,000 active
and laid-off workers at Beechcraft, called on the Air Force to
reverse the award to Embraer.
The union said the selection process was facing scrutiny
because the Air Force chose a more costly plane amid the U.S.
sequestration process that calls for big spending cuts,
including in defense.
"We should be very concerned whenever U.S. taxpayer dollars
are used to create hundreds of jobs in any foreign country,"
union President Tom Buffenbarger said in a statement. He called
the Air Force decision a "real blow to American workers and
Embraer and Sierra Nevada said its offering in the
competition, the single-engine turboprop Super Tucano, supports
more than 1,400 U.S. jobs, and added the aircraft will be built
in Jacksonville, Florida.
"An important aspect about our approach is the "in-sourcing"
of jobs to Jacksonville," the companies' statement said. "We
feel it establishes an exciting future model of bringing high
tech aerospace manufacturing jobs back to the United States to
stem the recent tide of moving jobs offshore."
Sierra Nevada has 2,500 U.S. workers and Embraer has 1,200