Economic uncertainty and high gas prices are hurting sales of general aviation aircraft -- as shown by a 28-percent drop in piston aircraft sales in the first quarter of this year -- and on Monday, Mooney Airplane Company said it is responding to that reality by slowing down production and laying off 80 staffers. "These decisions will not have an adverse effect on the quality or safety of our products, nor will they delay scheduled aircraft deliveries," Mooney CEO Dennis Ferguson said in a statement. "They were made to create corporate resiliency in the present economic conditions. Our plans include positioning Mooney as a strong contender in the international market." The weak dollar has created a strong market for U.S. goods overseas. "We are strengthening our business in Europe, South America and Australia, where Mooney's high performance, efficiency and pricing are especially appealing," Ferguson said. "Our focus is to ensure the long-term viability of the company through prudent management and expansion of our market reach."
The laid-off workers will get a severance package and career-transition support, Ferguson said. The production rate will slow from eight aircraft per month to five, for the rest of this year. Mooney Airplane Co., based in Kerrville, Texas, has delivered more than 11,000 aircraft worldwide since 1946.