Chinese businessman buys Snohomish County plane-kit maker
The head of Chinese conglomerate Jilin Hanxing Group has acquired Glasair Aviation, a general aviation kit-aircraft manufacturer based in Arlington.
Seattle Times business reporter
The head of a Chinese conglomerate has acquired Glasair Aviation, a general-aviation kit-aircraft manufacturer in Arlington.
Glasair Aviation produces aircraft kits that can be built at home and flown for personal use, and has sold about 3,000 planes. Its popular brands are Glasair, Glastar and Sportsman.
Fang Tieji, chairman of Jilin Hanxing Group, approached the Snohomish County company and "made a very attractive offer," said Scott Taylor, Glasair's operations manager. The price was not disclosed.
"They are very interested in bringing general aviation into China," Taylor said.
China is the largest country without a general aviation population, and its airspace is heavily regulated, he said.
The new owner's plans include getting the Sportsman certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, which would make the four-seater plane available for commercial use.
Taylor said the company's "Two Weeks to Taxi" program, in which a customer can buy a kit plane and watch it be built in two weeks, is what attracted Fang.
"No one has been able to replicate that," Taylor said.
Jilin Hanxing owns companies in real estate, chemicals and other sectors, and recently moved into companies that provide airport ground support, known as fixed-based operators.
Fang plans to invest substantially in Glasair Aviation's current product lines and acquire more aviation-related companies, according to a news release. He also intends to keep Glasair Aviation's headquarters, management and employees in Arlington.
In the past two years, the Chinese government and private companies have made purchasing aviation-related companies a priority, said Ernest Arvai, CEO of Arvai Group, an aircraft-consulting group based outside of Boston.
Cirrus Aircraft, a maker of all-composite four-seat planes based in Duluth, Minn., was purchased last year by China Aviation Industry General Aircraft.
In a much bigger potential deal, Superior Aviation Beijing is negotiating to acquire bankrupt Hawker Beechcraft, based in Wichita, Kan., for $1.79 billion.
Recession in the general-aviation industry has provided the Chinese with opportunity to buy prime companies, Arvai said.
"They are putting together a portfolio of companies that will give them all of the technological skills they will need to compete over time," Arvai said. Acquisitions provide intellectual property, experience and the possibility of building operations in China parallel to those in the U.S.
An example of China's aspirations is the COMAC C919 program, a single-aisle jet being developed to compete with Airbus' A320 and Boeing's 737, he said.
"They are trying to join the big boys," Arvai said of the C919. "They are not quite there, it likely won't be a great commercial success, but everybody has to start somewhere."
Johanna Somers: 206-464-3714 or email@example.com