by David Chapman, Staff Writer
The $355 million U.S. Air Force contract to build a light attack aircraft in Jacksonville will likely be decided “after the first of the year,” according to Jacksonville Aviation Authority Executive Director Steve Grossman. Grossman provided an update Monday to the JAA board of directors. The previous contract was set aside.
Aircraft manufacturer Embraer partnered with Sierra Nevada Corp. to build the A-29 Super Tucano warplane and was awarded the U.S. Department of Defense contract in December after its main competitor, Wichita, Kan.-based Hawker Beechcraft, was excluded in a “pre-award exclusion.”
The contract was set aside after Hawker Beechcraft objected to the exclusion and filed suit against the U.S. government, which then put a “stop-work” order on Sierra Nevada Jan. 4.
The Air Force set aside the contract in February and announced it would reopen the bidding.
Grossman told JAA board members the bidding would be exclusive to Embraer and Hawker Beechcraft and bids are due June 16.
An award decision will “probably be after the first of the year,” Grossman said.
Grossman said Jacksonville still is Embraer’s chosen location to build the plane and that he was confident the company had the best product for the Air Force.
The planes would be constructed at a 40,000-square-foot hangar at Jacksonville International Airport.
City Council approved $150,000 for Embraer in January through a Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund that is contingent upon the contract being awarded. Under the QTI, the City would refund $30,000 and the state would be responsible for $120,000.
The project promised an average salary of $49,500, plus benefits. Embraer was expected to generate an annual payroll of about $2.5 million and invest $1.8 million in assembly equipment.
“Hopefully we’ll have some good news several months down the line,” Grossman said.