Columbia Trims Workforce

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After being walloped by weather and bogged down by bureaucracy, Columbia Aircraft says it has to trim its workforce by 10 percent to make ends meet. The Bend, Ore., planemaker announced on Thursday it will lay off 59 of its 605 employees because of unforeseen factors that cut the number of deliveries it could make last year. Although sales have remained strong, CEO Bing Lantis said in a news release that a freak hailstorm last June and a six-month delay in the certification of its Garmin G1000 panel installation have "hampered Columbia's ability to operate profitably." The 59 workers got their pink slips this week. As AVweb reported last year, the hailstorm damaged the paint on 60 aircraft that were awaiting certification and delivery at the Bend plant. Although no structural damage occurred, the finish on all the planes had to be repaired or refinished before they could go to customers. The hail damage came after a six-month delay in the G1000 certification, which meant that no one who ordered those airplanes could pick them up (and pay for them) until the paperwork was complete. Lantis says Columbia tried to reduce its workforce through attrition, but finally had to impose the layoffs. He said the order backlog remains fat and the company is building and delivering aircraft against a 90-day backlog of orders.