An Oregon federal judge has made bedfellows of strangers in a ruling aimed at forcing a partnership between a huge Chinese aviation company and a group of homebuilders, both of whom were trying to buy the assets of Epic Aircraft. Judge Randall Dunn accepted the $4.3 million cash bid for Epic from Aviation Industry Corp. of China on the condition that it sign an agreement allowing the LT Builders Group to run the facility in Bend, Ore. The builders' group is made up of former Epic customers whose unfinished Epic LT turboprop aircraft were stranded inside the builder assist facility in Bend when the company closed last summer. The judge said that if the builders and AVIC can't sign a deal by Thursday, he'll consider selling the whole works to a third bidder, Harlow Aerostructures, of Wichita. Builder Doug King said he and his group have been working since the ruling to try to reach agreement with AVIC but if that doesn't work out it may have to try working with Harlow. "This is a shotgun marriage proposal," King told AVweb. "The judge said 'You're going to get married, you just don't know to whom.'"
Harlow CEO Phil Friedman told The Oregonian he intends to negotiate directly with the LT Builders Group in an effort push the Chinese out of the way. The builders say the direction from the judge couldn't be more clear and they will try to cut a deal with the Chinese. AVIC didn't offer a comment, but the position imposed by the judge is polar opposite to the corporation's original proposal to move the whole operation to China. It would seem the only folks happy about the turn of events are representatives of the city of Bend. "I was pleased that the judge found a way to at least attempt to keep the business in Oregon and to re-establish the business, hopefully at the Bend airport," Gary Firestone, Bend assistant city attorney, told the Oregonian. "Putting some of those capable, talented people to work will be good."