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Eagle Aircraft closes Henderson plant

ENDING years of speculation, the Malaysian Government has finally pulled the pin on its Australian aeroplane manufacturing facility in Henderson.

The owners of Eagle Aircraft decided to close the plant, which still employs around 45 staff, and concentrate its efforts at its Eagle light composite aircraft facility in Malacca.

Both the WA and Federal governments have been fighting to keep the plant in Perth, providing incentives and subsidies to keep the plant operational.

Not including Commonwealth funding from the period when the Malaysian Government bought into the company until 1999, four grants totalling $27,000 were provided by the State Government.

The closure puts to bed the dream of the WA family, which founded the business. Eagle Aircraft Pty Ltd was originally floated in 1987 as Composite Industries by Deryck Graham and his two sons Deryck jun. and Neil. In 1989, its was renamed Eagle Aircraft.

Battles with aviation regulators in Australia and internationally took their toll on the company. Facing bankruptcy, the entity formed a joint venture with the Malaysian Government in 1991.

In 1993, the Malaysian Government through Composite Technology Research Malaysia and national oil company Petronas took over control of the company paying a reported $7.8 million for the plant and the rights to the unique single-engine plane that it manufactured.

While the Malacca manufacturing plant had already been producing some of the planes, an agreement struck earlier this month with the United States Government paves the way for strong demand for the Malaysian-manufactured Eagle.

The signing of the revised Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement, signed between the Malaysian Department of Civil Aviation and the Federal Aviation Administration of the US, makes the Eagle aircraft acceptable for export to the US.

Malaysia is the first country in Asia and only the fifth worldwide to conclude the lucrative deal.

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