Hawker Beechcraft intends to sell off its business and general aviation and customer support businesses to China’s Superior Aviation Beijing under a potential $1.79 billion deal.

The Wichita, Kan.-based manufacturer entered an exclusivity agreement with Superior as part of an ongoing review of strategic options, and says it “decided to proceed with Superior after determining that its proposal would create the greatest value for the company and position it for long-term growth.”

Hawker says the transaction – which does not include the company’s defense business – would save jobs and result in the infusion of much-needed funding for the business to maintain its product lines. “Superior is committed to maintaining Hawker Beechcraft’s strong presence in the U.S. and retaining its current employee base and experienced management team,” says Hawker Beechcraft Corp. Chairman Bill Boisture.

The bid from Superior was one of eight that Hawker had received for some or all of the company. Hawker Beechcraft entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 3 and on June 30 filed its preliminary plan of reorganization. It had said it was considering multiple options, including the potential sale as well as continued operations as a standalone company.

The terms of the agreement call for Superior to make payments over the next six weeks to sustain the jet business until the transaction could be closed. If the negotiations do not conclude “in a timely manner,” Hawker is prepared to seek confirmation of its joint plan of reorganization that would transfer ownership to the majority of its creditors and eliminate $2.5 billion in the company’s debt.

However, Hawker Beechcraft expects Superior will receive the full support from Beijing for the transaction. The companies must still reach a definitive agreement and must receive bankruptcy court blessing, along with approval by the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. Hawker says the deal does not require a financing condition.

The agreement with Superior, an aerospace manufacturer that produces general aviation engines and parts, was years in the making, says Hawker CEO Steve Miller. “Superior has had a long-standing interest in the commercial aircraft business of Hawker Beechcraft, having first approached the company several years ago regarding a potential strategic partnership,” he says. “With Superior’s previous experience operating a U.S. business and its demonstrated ability to quickly restore a business to profitability after emerging from Chapter 11, we believe a transaction with Superior would maximize value for Hawker Beechcraft and its stakeholders.”

Superior is 60% owned by privately held Beijing Superior Aviation Technology Corporation Ltd. and 40% by Beijing E-Town International Investment & Development Corporation Ltd., a company controlled by the Beijing municipal government that supports the financing of strategic investments in certain industries.

Miller adds the deal would provide the company greater access to the nascent Chinese market, which he estimates will grow at a pace of 10% a year over the next 10-15 years.

The decision would not involve Hawker Beechcraft Defense Company, which is finishing up its Joint Primary Aircraft Training System program and vying for the Light Air Support contract that will be awarded early next year – after Hawker is to emerge from bankruptcy.