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Hawker Beechcraft Says Mideast Sales Boosted by Governments

Hawker Beechcraft Corp., the former planemaking unit of Raytheon Co., said its sales of aircraft to the Middle East have been boosted by government purchases, especially for so-called special-mission aircraft, amid a slowdown in the industry.

“We’re fortunate that the government business side is so strong that markets like the Middle East help us weather the storm,” Sean McGeough, president of the U.S. company’s European, Middle Eastern and African operations, said today in an interview in Abu Dhabi. “We sell a lot of special-mission aircrafts to governments. That part of our business is still healthy.”

Eighty percent of sales in the Middle East are to governments, McGeough said. The special-mission aircraft include those for medical evacuation, surveillance and border protection, he said. Hawker Beechcraft delivered a total of 318 airplanes in 2010, valued at around $2.8 billion and 2011 sales are expected to remain “consistent” with the previous year, McGeough said.

Shipments of civil planes fell to 1,227 in the first nine months of 2011, down 58 percent from 2,912 in the same period of 2007, according to data on the website of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, a Washington-based trade group. Business jet sales fell 13 percent in 2011 from a year earlier, the data show.

“When you look at the market place today and the overall aviation industry, it’s suffering,” McGeough said. “It’s going through a bad time. Fifty percent of the overall industry has been wiped out compared with the time before the financial crisis.”

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Hawker Beechcraft delivers 70 percent of its airplanes outside the U.S., a shift from five years ago when 80 percent of its aircraft were delivered to the U.S., McGeough said. Out of deliveries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, 20 percent of those in 2010 went to the Middle East, he said. Global markets for the company’s aircraft aren’t likely to recover before 16 months to 2 years because of the European debt crisis and the U.S. economy, he said.

Raytheon sold Hawker Beechcraft in 2007 to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Onex Corp. Its models include Hawker corporate jets and Beechcraft propeller-driven civil planes.

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