A question that is being asked in the United States: why would a state-owned Chinese aerospace giant want the tangled remains of a tiny kit-built aircraft company that crashed last year in Bend, Portland?
The Portland Chapter 7 bankruptcy auction where AVIC won Epic’s Air assets for $4.3 million seems something of a mystery.
Yan Yang, a Beijing-based lawyer who represented the Chinese company at the session, said if her clients gained control – which remains far from certain – Epic’s assets might not all be bundled off to China as originally planned.
"They want to enhance the value of the brand in this country," Yang said. "They’re open to suggestions and working with people interested in the same goal."
The reversal gave some solace to owners of unfinished Epic aircraft, who worked on the planes themselves in the Bend factory before it abruptly closed.
A few theories emerged:
- China’s general-aviation industry – flights other than military, airline and cargo operations – is embryonic. AVIC may merely want Epic’s designs to jump into the private- and charter-plane sector.
- Epic, founded with state subsidies in 2003, used carbon-fiber composites for its airframes. Perhaps AVIC, which makes parts for the 787 Dreamliner and other Boeing planes using composites, could gain clearer title to such advanced materials through Epic’s technology.
- The US Navy was reportedly working with Epic to develop an unmanned refueling airplane, using sensitive technology that could interest AVIC.
Oregon Business News reported the possibility that national-security restrictions could ultimately disqualify the Chinese company. But Yang said the Chinese had done due diligence concerning US export controls. "So far," she said, "we don’t see any issues that cause concern."