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End of the Line for Hawker?

Hawker Beechcraft has called off plans to sell itself to China, and intends to emerge from bankruptcy as a stand-alone company called Beechcraft making piston, turboprop, trainer and special-mission aircraft. The Hawker business-jet product line is to be sold off or shut down.

After 50 years and almost 1,700 aircraft, this could mean the end for one of the longest-running designs in business aviation. It is known simply as “the Hawker”, but has carried a variety of names since it first flew in 1962 as the de Havilland DH.125 Jet Dragon – one of the first purpose-designed business jets.

HS.125 Srs 1 (Photo: Tony Banham Collection, 1000aircraftphotos.com)

De Havilland had been purchased by Hawker Siddeley, and the aircraft become the HS.125 in production, beginning the long-running association of this sturdy, reliable mid-size jet with the Hawker moniker. When Hawker Siddeley merged with BAC in 1997 to form British Aerospace, the aircraft flew on as the BAe 125.

RAF Dominie T.1 (Photo: Chris Lofting, airliners.net)

But in 1993 BAe sold off its business jet division to Raytheon, which had purchased Beechcraft in 1980. The in-production BAe 125-800 became the Hawker 800. The companies were merged in 1994 and in 2007 were sold to private-equity firms Onex and Goldman Sachs, creating Hawker Beechcraft.

Hawker Beechcraft continued to improve the aircraft and offered versions ranging from the lower-cost Hawker 750 to the higher-performance Hawker 900XP. It also applied the Hawker name to a widening range of bizjets from the light Hawker 200 (nee Premier II) and Hawker 400 (nee Beechjet 400) to the all-new super mid-size Hawker 4000.

Hawker 900XP (Photo: Hawker Beechcraft)

Its jet sales badly hit by the business-aviation implosion, Hawker Beechcraft filed for bankruptcy protection in May this year. In June, it accepted an offer to sell its commercial business to the almost-unknown Superior Aviation of Beijing. Now the company says the sale is off and the plan to sell or close the jet line is back on.

Over 50 years and through many several changes of ownership and name, the 125 series has continued to sell and to serve. It is not the most elegant or athletic of bizjets, and far from the newest, but the 125’s honest performance has ensured that, to customers, the Hawker name equates with robustness and reliability.

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