Scarce financing threatens record Liberty orders

April 9, 2009

In the past 60 days Liberty Aerospace received the highest number of orders for any 60-day period in the company’s history—20 aircraft—with one glitch. The customers, most of them flight schools, can’t find financing.

If Liberty’s customers could find financing, President and CEO Keith Markley said he would immediately recall all his workers. He once had 160 worldwide, but with the latest round of layoffs at the end of March, he has 45, roughly 38 of those at the factory in Melbourne, Fla. He has to assure that production does not exceed sales.

Some flight schools cancel or delay orders while others begin a lengthy search for financing. They find the requirements quite high, including 30 to 40 percent down, or a demand for posting enough collateral to cover the financed assets in full. Most of the aircraft go out the door at prices ranging from $180,000 to $210,000.

“It’s frustrating,” said Markley, a former congressman. Now deliveries total three per month. Affected by Liberty’s fortunes are suppliers in Romania and Brazil.

“I’m optimistic,” Markley said. “I can’t believe the orders we’ve been getting.”