October 21, 2013
By Alton K. Marsh
Cessna Aircraft President and CEO Scott Ernest gave updates on nearly the complete lineup of Cessna products during the National Business Aviation Association convention Oct. 21—but made it clear there are issues he doesn’t want to talk about.
Those issues include the Skycatcher and the incident involving the Cessna 182 JT-A equipped with an SMA diesel engine that had an off-airport landing Aug. 21 after an engine failure.
Ernest said the single-engine, high-performance Cessna TTx will receive a marketing boost with the addition of 10 aircraft to the demonstration fleet in an effort to introduce customers to the 235 knots true airspeed, $733,950 airplane. Customers seem to like the updated Sovereign with its “swooplets” that are not quite winglets. The M2 jet is on track and headed toward its first delivery to book author Stuart Woods in December.
The good news kept coming. The mid-size Latitude business jet will fly in the first quarter of next year and is “ahead of schedule” for its certification in 2015. The Longitude is doing well in wind tunnel tests, and the Scorpion military jet that could be equipped for surveillance is going to fly well before the end of the year—maybe before Thanksgiving. The single-engine turboprop Grand Caravan EX seems to be attracting attention in the China-Asia market.
The diesel-engine Cessna 182 JT-A is moving along the certification track. Asked if the cause of an engine failure has been determined that occurred during testing 30 miles west of Wichita, Ernest deferred, pointing out certification is continuing. A follow-up question from another reporter also asking about the off-airport landing by the JT-A brought a terse comment from Ernest that he had answered the question, followed by an awkward silence. Ernest referred further questions to Senior Vice President for Engineering Michael Thacker, who said after the press conference that he could not discuss the type of testing in progress at the time of the engine failure.
Asked about the light sport Skycatcher by another reporter during the press conference, Ernest summed up the aircraft by simply saying, “No future.” A reporter’s attempt to ask additional questions brought the same answer, “No future.” However, after the press conference, Jodi Noah, who heads up the propeller-driven product line at Cessna, said the company had Skycatchers available for delivery and that it was still in their product line. She did note that a report from AOPA Online in March that nearly 90 Skycatchers were in inventory was “about right.” A more recent check of FAA records suggests that about 87 of the light sport airplanes are still owned by Cessna. None are currently in production, she said. Ernest said after the news conference that the airplane simply failed to find a home in the marketplace. It was a project begun well before his arrival at Cessna. The company had suggested last year that it might try to certify the Skycatcher in the Primary Category for delivery in Europe, where aviation authorities do not recognize the U.S. light sport aircraft standards. However, Noah said that effort has been halted because the FAA was demanding changes to the airplane and a flight test program rather than just paperwork changes, making the project not financially feasible for Cessna.
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