Worst May Be Over For Wichita

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With a furlough here, some shuffling there and a lot of crossed fingers, the GA capital of the U.S. may have weathered the worst of the worst economic downturn in aviation's brief history. Cessna and Raytheon officials can't and won't say that happy days are here again but they are at least giving qualified comments to The Wichita Eagle that suggests they expect that brighter future we've all been waiting for to start soon ... maybe. "We knew that we were in a tough delivery year for '03 and '04, " said Doug Wilburne, VP of investor relations for Textron, Cessna's parent company. "We are anticipating a much more robust '05." Cessna's recent furlough of 6,000 workers to align production with demand is now over and company officials hope no further layoffs are required. Raytheon isn't so much cutting jobs as transferring them to other companies. The company announced last week that it would shift some of its plastic work from a plant in Salina, Kan., to Nordam, a plastics and composites company with factories in Wichita and Tulsa. There will be 64 Raytheon employees affected by the move but they'll be allowed to apply for the 40 to 60 new jobs created at Nordam. Spokeswoman Jackie Berger said the shuffling is aimed at turning around the money-losing company. "We plan to break even this year and improve the business in future years," she said.