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Superior Aviation back in court to battle Textron

A US court has given permission to reopen a bankruptcy case involving a subsidiary of prospective Hawker Beechcraft purchaser Beijing-based Superior Aviation. The ruling, on 25 May, centres on Texas-based Superior Air Parts (SAP), previously owned by Thielert. Superior bought SAP in 2009 for $7 million after Thielert filed for bankruptcy on 31 December 2008.

In March this year, SAP asked the courts to have its bankruptcy case reopened. The seemingly odd request came in response to a civil lawsuit filed in January by Cessna parent Textron.

SAP builds engines and US Federal Aviation Administration parts manufacturer approved (PMA) components for Lycoming piston engines, and, as such, is the main competitor to Textron's Avco subsidiary, the OEM for Lycoming products.

Prior to the bankruptcy and subsequent acquisition by Superior, Thielert made an agreement to sell its PMAs and most of its other assets to Avco as part of a Chapter 11 process, but later withdrew the offer, stating "antitrust concerns". The case was closed in October 2010 but will now be revisited to determine if Textron's complaints have any merit.

Textron's lawsuit claims that in its 2009 bankruptcy proceedings, SAP overturned licensing agreements with Textron, in effect negating its approval for SAP-produced components.

SAP and Textron have a long history of wrangling and then resolving intellectual property issues, starting in 1981 and continuing in 1999, according to court filings. "For decades, [Textron and its wholly owned subsidiary Avco] and their predecessors have tried to put [SAP] out of business, thus eliminating their only competition for the production of various replacement parts necessary to service a Lycoming aircraft engine," SAP stated in a response to Textron's latest lawsuit.

Superior is in a 45-day exclusive negotiation period with Hawker Beechcraft to evaluate its $1.79 billion bid for the Wichita-based airframer, which entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May.