GAO denies Beechcraft protest over Afghan aircraft contract

Beechcraft filed a protest soon after, arguing that its AT-6 aircraft had received a higher rating and was a cheaper bid.

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But GAO said that the Air Force followed its contract process fairly.

“GAO denied Beechcraft’s protest after finding that the Air Force reasonably concluded that Beechcraft’s proposed approach presented a high risk that its aircraft would not achieve a requirement of the solicitation within the requisite time period,” the GAO said.

Beechcraft said that the requirements of the contract were written to favor the Embraer aircraft.

“During this protest, we learned that the GAO’s review looks only at whether the Air Force followed its process, but not whether the process itself was actually correct or appropriate,” the company said in a statement. “It is now time for Congress to step in and put an end to this flawed acquisition process and limit the purchase of the Brazilian aircraft to only that of the Afghanistan requirement covered by the first delivery order of the LAS contract.”

The dispute over the light air support contract has sparked a regional competition in Congress, with Kansas lawmakers supporting the Kansas-based Beechcraft and Florida lawmakers backing Embraer, as the planes would be made at a Florida plant.

The GAO protest was the second time that Beechcraft had objected to the Air Force contract award.

The Air Force re-bid the contract in 2012 after the first protest from Beechcraft, then named Hawker Beechcraft, and it scrapped an initial award to Embraer and Sierra Nevada.

But the second competition yielded the same result, and the Air Force again said it would purchase the Super Tucano planes.