Could Wichita's aircraft industry suffer Detroit's fate?

Wichita's business jetmakers sometimes think about Detroit. Not that many years ago, U.S. automakers weren't too concerned about emerging foreign competitors.

Productivity was poor, costs were out of control, and they became complacent, said Cessna Aircraft CEO Jack Pelton. Eventually, they lost their dominance.

Wichita, as the Air Capital of the World, can't be in denial that what happened in Detroit could never happen here, Pelton said.

"We have to work to make sure we don't fall victim to similar circumstances," Pelton said.

With the entrance of Brazil-based Embraer, where labor costs are lower, price competition is fierce. Honda also is entering the business jet market and many expect other global competitors will too someday.

Wichita companies can compete, but "we've got to get to this cost issue," Pelton said. It also will help as planemakers struggle through a down economy.

The aviation industry is in a "global sourcing environment," leaders of the industry said recently.

"I don't think we can think about the world in any other way," said Spirit AeroSystems CEO Jeff Turner.

It's a controversial issue with unions and others who worry about high-paying manufacturing jobs leaving the U.S.

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