SANDPOINT — Quest Aircraft Co. announced Friday that 22 of its 303 full-time employees have been laid off from the Sandpoint plane manufacturer.
Quest CEO Paul Schaller said the slowing economy caused gaps in production for the manufacturer and the company needed to be right-sized now.
“We are trying to be proactive but this is a tough business call and unfortunately what is best for the company isn’t what is best for everyone,” Schaller said. “Our prayers are with them.”
The layoff announcements began Thursday night and continued Friday morning. Employees will be eligible for rehire when the economy picks up, he said.
The jobs cut were mostly in production, but employees in engineering, administration and quality control were also let go.
Quest continues to produce three Kodiak planes a month and has a waiting list of 18 months. Schaller said the layoffs won’t slow production.
The problem is that many of the planes under production were ordered back in 2006-2007, Schaller said. As the planes got closer to reality, clients who ordered the $1 million planes started to ask if they could moved further down the waiting list.
“It takes four to six months for these gaps to fill up and we didn’t see any solution, so I had to react,” he said.
The rest of the airplane industry has seen cuts of up to 50 percent, Schaller said.
“The general economic challenges face all of us but our industry has been really hit,” he said.
The fallout has really hit the private clients who ordered Kodiaks for recreational use.
There is still a demand for Kodiak. One example is the company’s contract with the Department of Interior for nine planes.
In the meantime, Quest manufactured planes, now numbering more than 32, are all over the world.
Schaller sees word-of-mouth kicking in as humanitarian agencies are spreading the good word about the Kodiak’s ability to carry cargo as well as land or take off in remote regions.
A Kodiak was recently deployed to Haiti as part of earthquake relief operations with Mission Aviation Fellowship.