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SkyCatcher under design reviewSkyCatcher under design review

Cessna’s prototype SkyCatcher was on one of its final test flights when it entered an unrecoverable spin and crashed on Sept. 18, and the program is in the midst of a design review expected to last about 60 days, Cessna CEO Jack Pelton said Oct. 5 at the NBAA convention in Orlando, Fla.

“(The SkyCatcher) had completed all flight tests except power-on spins with full flaps and cross controls,” Pelton said. “The eighth spin was unrecoverable.”

The plane carried a BRS airframe parachute, but the parachute failed to deploy correctly, and the test pilot successfully bailed out at about 5,000 feet over Douglass, Kan., about 30 miles from Cessna’s Wichita headquarters. The 70-year-old test pilot was unhurt.

Pelton said the company expects to stick close to its planned schedule that includes customer deliveries beginning in 2009.

“We’re going to get this thing sorted out and continue,” he said.

Cessna has sold about 1,000 of the two-seat, 100-horsepower light sport aircraft. SkyCatchers will be manufactured in China and assembled and flight tested in the United States. The prototype destroyed in the spin accident had accumulated about 150 hours of flight time.

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