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Published: Friday, 1/30/2009

Cessna to shut its center for jet service

BY JC REINDL AND DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

Cessna Aircraft Co. said yesterday it is closing its business-jet service center at Toledo Express Airport because of a recession-related decrease in corporate aircraft use, laying off all 67 local employees.

The closure was announced as part of the Wichita, Kan., firm's plan to cut 4,600 employees, nearly a third of its global work force of 15,000 employees.

The Toledo Citation Service Center, one of Cessna's nine U.S. regional facilities for servicing business jets, has less work because of the recession, Cessna spokesman Doug Oliver said.

"Due to the global economic meltdown, people are flying their jets less," Mr. Oliver said. "We've got a slowdown in business jet usage, which translates to a slowdown in maintenance requirements, and that has resulted in a reduced workload there."

The business of jet maintenance can be similar in aspects to that of automobiles. "If you stop driving your car, it takes you a lot longer to get to your 25,000-mile checkup," said the spokesman, adding he could not speculate on whether Cessna would reopen the facility if business conditions improve.

Figures on the extent of the usage downturn were unavailable.

"We are saddened to see the loss of a tenant at Toledo Express, but we are particularly saddened to see the loss of so many jobs in our community," said Carla Firestone, spokesman for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, which leases the 36,000-square-foot facility.

Cessna yesterday gave employees 60-day layoff notices. Most of the Toledo employees are airframe and power plant mechanics, Mr. Oliver said.

Laid-off Toledo employees will receive a severance package based on years worked. A small number of workers were offered openings at other Cessna service centers, Mr. Oliver said.

The center opened in 1980 and services Cessna's fleet of Citation jets from across the region.

The closest Citation Service Centers are in Milwaukee and Newburgh, N.Y. Cessna is a subsidiary of Textron Inc., a multiindustry conglomerate.

The closure could create turbulence for other aviation business interests in the area.

Bradley Burdue, the president and owner of BD Aero Works Inc., an aircraft maintenance business at Toledo Express, said the announcement shocked him, but he believes Cessna's withdrawal could present a potential growth opportunity for his business.

"We'll find a silver lining somewhere," Mr. Burdue said. "If I sit idle, it will be bad for me."

But the closing could be detrimental to FlightSafety International Inc.'s pilot-training center across the street because corporate Citation owners often have scheduled their pilots' training to coincide with aircraft maintenance, Mr. Burdue said.

However, Ms. Firestone said that FlightSafety's local business is not dependent on the facility's presence.

Rex Damschroder, an instructor at FlightSafety, said he was shocked to hear of the Cessna closing.

"There's activity there all the time. We've been fairly busy. I worked a 12-hour day today and expect to do the same tomorrow," he said.

Steve Phillips, a FlightSafety spokesman, was unaware of Cessna's announcement but said, "I wouldn't jump to any conclusions" about its impact on FlightSafety.

Contact JC Reindl at:

jcreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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