By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Hawker Beechcraft says the U.S. Air Force hasn't given a fair shake to its bid to provide up to 55 airplanes for light air support, and on Tuesday, Hawker said it's taking the argument to federal court. The company said it has asked the Air Force -- twice -- to explain its choice, with no response, and late last week the Government Accountability Office declined Hawker's request to review the decision. The elimination of Hawker's AT-6 single-engine turboprop leaves only Embraer's Super Tocano in contention for the contract, which is worth nearly $1 billion.
"We were relying on [the GAO] investigation to provide transparency into what has been a bidding process of inconsistent, irregular and constantly changing requirements," said Bill Boisture, Hawker Beechcraft CEO. "We find ourselves still without answers, which is unacceptable, and continue to believe that our exclusion from this important contract was made without basis in process or fact." Hawker argues that the AT-6 has already been evaluated and proven capable during testing with the Air National Guard, and adds that the contract should go to a U.S. company, helping to preserve 1,400 domestic jobs. The company has posted an AT-6 website where supporters can send letters to congressional representatives and the Department of Defense asking them not to "outsource our jobs and our National Security to Brazil." Embraer has said it will do the final assembly of its Super Tucanos in Jacksonville, Fla., if it gets the contract, employing about 50 people.