Beechcraft Corp. to Protest Again on the US Air Force Decision to Award LAS Contract to Embraer

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Beechcraft Corp. AT-6. Photo: Beechcraft Corp.
Beechcraft Corp. AT-6. Photo: Beechcraft Corp.

Beechcraft Corporation today announced that it will formally protest to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) the U.S. Air Force’s (USAF) recent award of the Light Air Support contract to its Brazilian competitor, Embraer. An estimated 1,400 jobs in Kansas and other states are in jeopardy as a result of the Air Force decision.

“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,” Bill Boisture, CEO, Beechcraft

“Following our debrief with the Air Force earlier this week, we are very perplexed by this decision,” said Bill Boisture, CEO, Beechcraft. “Our belief that we have the best aircraft was confirmed by the Air Force rating our aircraft ‘exceptional’ and the fact that we are the lower cost solution was confirmed by the USAF’s public award announcement.”

Last year, an Air Force investigation found evidence of bias toward Brazil-based Embraer and its Nevada-based partner, Sierra Nevada (SNC), which led to the decision to restart the competition. Although SNC later sued the Air Force attempting to enforce the biased decision, U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Christine O.C. Miller wrote in her Nov. 1, 2012, opinion that based on the investigation’s evidence of bias “the Air Force’s decision to cancel the contract award to SNC and re-solicit proposals was reasonable and rational and should stand.”

“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. “Given our experience of last year and our continued strong concern that there are again significant errors in the process and evaluation in this competition, we are left with no recourse other than to file a protest with the GAO. The Air Force needs to make the right decision for the nation and our future allies.”

“In evaluating the competitors, the U.S. Air Force looked at three criteria, in priority order: mission capability, past performance and pricing in order to determine overall best value.” Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer commented in a joint statement. Based on these factors the companies said they are expecting rapid Government Accounting Office decision on Beechcraft’s protest, and are confident the Air Force selected the A-29 as the lowest risk solution and overall best value for the U.S. and its partner nations. “In accordance with the RFP, the US Air Force selected the A-29 based on three factors stated above, not just a single factor. The U. S. Air Force determined that the price they are paying for the superior A-29 aircraft was part of the ‘overall best value’.”

SNC added that an important aspect about our approach is the “in-sourcing” of jobs to Jacksonville. Overall the program is expected to support more than 1,400 American jobs, reflecting both the large U.S. supplier base – including more than 100 companies that will supply parts and services for the A-29 Super Tucano. “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.” the SNC statement added.

The AT-6 draws its heritage from the Beechcraft T-6 A/B Texan trainer. It was designed to provide close air support and meet the demands of irregular warfare environment. The AT-6 is outfitted with a more powerful engine, a variety of self-protection mechanisms, multiple secure communication functions and advanced surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. However, unlike the A-29 that is already used in tactical missions worldwide, the AT-6 has not been selected by any air force yet.

Beechcraft Corp. recently celebrated the delivery of the 800th Beechcraft T-6. The aircraft, a T-6B trainer was handed over to the United States Navy’s Training Air Wing 4 based at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas. Training Air Wing 4 has now received 16 of a total of 98 T-6Bs scheduled to replace an aged fleet of T-34 aircraft for primary flight training. According to Russ Bartlett, president, Beechcraft Defense Company, Military programs around the globe have accumulated more than 2 million flight hours using the T-6 to train pilots, navigators and weapons systems operators.

Production line of T-6B trainers at Beechcraft Corp. Wichita plant. The company is protesting the award of the LAS contract to its competitor Embraer. claiming their proposal was lower and potential loss of US jobs. Photo: Beechcraft Corp.
Production line of T-6B trainers at Beechcraft Corp. Wichita plant. The company is protesting the award of the LAS contract to its competitor Embraer. claiming their proposal was lower and potential loss of US jobs. Photo: Beechcraft Corp.