Months after shutting its doors at the Bend Municipal Airport, once high-flying Epic Aircraft has four bidders vying to buy the company out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company's interim CEO told an aviation industry Website Tuesday.

The next federal bankruptcy court hearing is set for Dec. 7 in Portland, interim CEO Christopher Sanders told AVweb (www.avweb.com) Tuesday.

While the names of the bidders are confidential, Sanders told Russ Niles, AVweb's editor in chief, that one of the four is an established aircraft maker, and at least two would be well-known to those who follow the industry.

Sanders said there are currently 15 unfinished planes in varying stages of construction at the Bend plant, and he's talking with all of the owner/builders to try to ensure they can complete their projects.

Epic Air (www.epicaircraft.com), which had some 200 employees near the start of the year and hoped to add 100 more, sold a $1.8 million kit to build a six-seat turboprop aircraft called the LT.

But the doors were shut by August, with a note on the front door claiming the owner failed to pay rent and the landlord, ER1, a Delaware limited liability firm, had taken possession of the property. Workers later were allowed in to retrieve their tools.

Sanders said he was hired shortly after the departure of former CEO Rick Schrameck, and told AVweb his role is to "maximize the value of the company and to make the company viable again."

The recession's economic headwinds have been buffeting all small plane firms - Cessna bought the bankrupt Columbia Aircraft factory at the Bend airport, only to cut back, then close its Bend facility earlier this year, moving the plane's production to its Wichita, Kansas headquarters.

But Epic's downfall has been messier, with lawsuits flying amid allegations of wrongdoing by some Epic executives, none yet proven in court, the industry Website noted. Some workers told NewsChannel 21 in August they hadn't received their last paychecks, and health care benefits apparently had not been paid.