Judge Leaves Epic Air Future Unresolved

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At a contentious hearing on Tuesday, an Oregon judge said he will decide on Friday who can take over the bankrupt Epic Aircraft company. After five hours of testimony, "there was a sense that any of the three contestants could still walk away with Epic's remains, either alone or in some combination," according to a report in The Oregonian. The Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) entered the highest bid for the company in last week's auction, $4.3 million in cash, but the final decision on the company's fate is up to the judge. The LT Builders Group, formed by seven owners of Epic airplanes, pressed their case, and though Judge Randall Dunn critiqued their business projections as "pathetic ... incompetent ... unacceptable ... useless," he said he found the testimony from group leader Daryl Ingalsbe "very credible." The third bidder, Harlow Aerostructures, based in Wichita, Kan., has been a supplier to the aerospace industry since 1954. On Friday, the three bidders will have another chance to present their arguments and to explore new ways to perhaps make deals among themselves or to split up various assets of the company.

Lawyers for AVIC said they recently found that Epic had a defense contract, which could raise issues about Chinese ownership. However, AVIC is not interested in that aspect of the business and would be willing to exclude it from their purchase. Lawyers for the company said they also would be willing to take on a partner to run the company's U.S. operations. The Epic line includes several variations of two basic designs, a pressurized single-engine turboprop and a small light jet.