Jabiru maker spirals down
THE high Australian dollar and competition from other manufacturers is causing serious damage to Bundaberg-based aircraft producer Jabiru.
Business manager Sue Woods said Jabiru used to employ 25 people, but that was down to about 16.
Where it once operated two assembly lines, there was now one.
When Jabiru started out about 20 years ago, the aircraft was one of a kind in the aviation industry.
But Ms Woods said there were now about 100 companies competing with them worldwide.
And because of the high Australian dollar, Jabiru was having difficulty matching prices.
"When the Australian dollar was 70 cents against the US dollar we used to sell planes like hot cakes," she said.
"There's a lot of factors against us (now)."
Ms Woods said when the exchange rate was in Jabiru's favour the company would sell about 10 kits and 10 built aircraft a month.
"Now we're lucky if we get one a month out the door," she said.
Ms Woods said tough financial times around the world were also having an effect.
"Boys' toys are just not top of the shopping list any more," she said.
"Last year was pretty dismal. We've got to see how this year turns out."
The price of Jabirus starts at about $56,000, with the top of the range costing $95,000.
Buyers also usually add about $10,000 worth of accessories.
Despite the difficulties, Ms Woods said there was no prospect of the Jabiru operation closing down completely.
There are about 800-1000 Jabiru flying worldwide.
"There are a lot of aircraft out there that need support," Ms Woods said.
"There's a healthy need for spare parts out there."
CQUniversity senior lecturer in aviation Ron Bishop said it was sad to see Jabiru in difficulties.
"When they started they were trendsetters," he said.
"But last year Cessna came out with a model to compete with them."
Mr Bishop said before Jabiru started up it would have been very expensive to buy an aircraft.
"When Jabiru started it meant upper average income earners could own an aircraft," he said.