The crash and burn of Quartz Mountain Aerospace long will be felt in the Altus community, leaders say. The maker of the single-engine, four-seater Luscombe Model 11-E was starting to take off when it was grounded by a bad economy and bad management decisions, said David Braddock, an economic development consultant for the city and a former state legislator.
Aviation enthusiasts, private pilots, manufacturing suppliers and the curious were among those who flocked to Friday’s auction at the… “A lot of money was lost in Quartz Mountain Aerospace in this small community,” Braddock said. “We will feel that hurt for a long time.” The company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in October after laying off most of its 150 employees in late 2008. Quartz Mountain Aerospace, formerly Luscombe Aircraft Corp., came to Altus in 1996, but it took nearly eight years to get Federal Aviation Administration approval for the aircraft design and parts. Company leaders promised to build 415 pilot training planes and received millions of dollars in tax breaks from the state, along with cash from local investors and loans from the city of Altus. “It had a lot of promise in our area providing jobs,” Braddock said. “What’s sad is that it’s a great product. There was a lot of interest in it.” The company didn’t tailor growth plans as the nation’s economy began faltering, he said. “Management was overaggressive and really wanted it to work,” he said. “Management should have started cutting back and preparing for the downturn. Instead, they charged full steam ahead until they ran off the cliff.” The company left creditors in the lurch, and loan defaults helped take down First State Bank of Altus. In bankruptcy filings, the manufacturer claimed $16 million in liabilities and $30.4 million in assets. Assets included a production certificate from the FAA the company valued at $16 million. Many of those assets are being auctioned this weekend in Altus. The highly coveted production certificate sold Friday for $500,000, said auction company owner Steve Starman. “We thought that was a little light,” Starman said with a grimace. “But I think it speaks to our economy right now.” Creditors with liens against the company will get to collect payment first once the company’s assets are liquidated. Altus one day will recover from the misstep, Braddock said. “We’ll get through it,” he said. “It happens to all communities. You have some winners and some losers. We hoped to have a winner.” Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce Natalie Shirley said the company’s demise was sad but not a major hit to aerospace manufacturing in the state. “We have to put it in perspective,” she said. “Aerospace is huge employer in state, with 143,000 workers. It’s huge business in Oklahoma.”
BY SUSAN SIMPSON /NewsOK