By Frank Joseph Rowe & Craig Miner
Copyright 1994, The Wichita Eagle & Beacon Publishing Company
Chapter 8, Once Again
Chapter 8, "Once Again", covers a time period (1980 – 1993) that serves not only to roughly complete the first century of Kansas aviation, but to springboard into what most likely will be a another new century for a prospering Kansas aviation industry.
Following the aviation recession of the early to mid 1980’s, the industry made a series of adjustments. Many small, single engine model aircraft (like the ubiquitous Cessna Model 172 "Skyhawk") were no longer being built. Instead, production emphasis was largely placed on high-dollar business jets and turboprops. Massive downsizing and restructuring of companies occurred with many divisions being sold off. In many instances, Kansas aircraft companies became subsidiaries of large, out of state parent companies.
Internal methods of operation were also re-vamped, updated and streamlined for better end-value and efficiency. Design and Engineering departments began to employ the widespread use of computer generated design (CADAM / CATIA). Advanced fabrication techniques and manufacturing processes yielded improved cost and quality (Numerically Controlled (NC) and Acid milling, Water-jet Knives and Laser Cutters being just a few of these new paths). Increased use of lightweight composites and other new materials as well as highly efficient "Just in Time" inventory control systems all helped the industry to become leaner and pull out of the recession. Aircraft that featured leading-edge materials and processes include the Beech Model 2000A "Starship", the Piaggio P-180 Avanti , Prescott "Pusher" and the RANS Model S-11 "Pursuit" lifting body aircraft built in Hays, Kansas. Cessna Aircraft Company further evolved it’s Citation series of business jets with the Citation X in 1993 taking top honors as the fastest General Aviation production jet in the world (Mach 0.9). Boeing Wichita would continue to expand it’s roll as a prime mod and subassembly facility. Roughly 75 % of the Model 737 would be built in Wichita and then sent by rail to Washington for final assembly. In addition to the 737, cockpits, struts, nacelles and other components were fabricated for the Models 747, 757, 767 and 777.
Of further significance was the groundwork being achieved to draft the "Glickmann-Kassebaum Bill" intended to revise liability laws. Approved March 16th, 1993, and signed into effect August 17, 1994, the General Aviation Revitalization Act (GARA) placed into effect an "18 year statute of repose" so that aviation manufacturers would not be subject to unreasonable lawsuits.
Overall, the aircraft companies that survived into the 1990’s were far departures from the same ones of the early 1960’s. The 1990 companies were "lean & mean" and able to respond a lot more quickly and efficiently to market opportunities and demands. Although fewer aircraft were built, dollar earnings were up due to the more substantial profit margin on jet and turboprop aircraft models.