The rising fortunes of the commercial aerospace industry pushed Ducommun Inc. to a better-than-expected fourth quarter and investors in the manufacturer of airplane parts are getting on board.

Shares of the Carson company have risen 22 percent since it released quarterly earnings March 4. It closed March 20 at $19.05, rising 10 percent for the week and landing among the top gainers on the LABJ stock index. (See page 32). Net income for the fourth quarter rose to $3.4 million, compared with a loss of $48.5 million during that period a year ago.

That increase actually fell short of estimates on an earnings-per-share basis – the 32 cents a share was 10 cents lower than what analysts expected. However, fourth quarter revenue of $194 million was up 3 percent compared with a year earlier and outpaced quarterly estimates of $188 million.

The fuel behind this takeoff in sales has been the resurgent airline industry. Chicago’s Boeing Inc. has seen orders for its jets rise 30 percent year over year during the fourth quarter. Ducommun supplies parts for a variety of Boeing aircraft, notably the 737s. There’s also been an increase in sales to French aircraft manufacturer Airbus, another Ducommun client.

Despite some setbacks, such as the technical issues that have grounded Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner fleet, the industry’s nose has been pitched upward since the 2008 financial crisis. And Ducommun has been along for the ride.

“There have been some glitches, but for the most part there’s a good order flow for aircrafts,” said J.B. Groh, an analyst at the Portland, Ore., office of research firm D.A. Davidson & Co.

This increase in cash flow has also helped gird the company through the remaining turbulence from its 2011 acquisition of LaBarge Inc. Ducommun bought the St. Louis electronic component maker for $325 million in a deal that saw it take on more than $300 million in debt.

That debt load took a toll on Ducommun’s bottom line – the company reported a net loss of $47.6 million for fiscal year 2011. And the problem wasn’t helped by the slow integration of revenue from the newly acquired company.

However, an increase in sales over the last few quarters has given Ducommun the ability to pursue a refinance of its loans. Michael Crawford, who follows the company for West L.A.’s B. Riley and Co., said the company is now in a much better position to pay off its remaining $163 million in debt.

“It’s gotten over the hump in the integration of the huge LaBarge acquisition,” he said. “We think there’s lots of leverage to the equity as enterprise value shifts from the debt side to the share side.”

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