Cessna Hits Stride With Skycatcher Light Sport Aircraft Deliveries


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Cessna Hits Stride With Skycatcher Light Sport Aircraft Deliveries

By Bill Goldston

January 26, 2011 - Cessna Aircraft has reported at the annual U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, that it has received more than 60 Skycatcher light sport aircraft from Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. In conjunction with its reassembly site at Yingling Aviation in Wichita, Kansa, Cessna has delivered more than 30 Skycatchers. 

?Our U.S. reassembly facility is receiving Skycatchers from Shenyang Aircraft Corporation at an increased cadence, but most importantly the quality of the aircraft continues to be excellent. Feedback from customers, individuals and flight schools alike has affirmed the need for a light sport aircraft with the Cessna brand.

It?s encouraging to see the Skycatcher enter service in such a positive way,? said Jack J. Pelton, Cessna chairman, president and CEO. The company is on track to deliver 150 Skycatchers in 2011, including the first models featuring the McCauley two-blade, fixed-pitch composite propeller.

The Skycatcher, announced in 2007, is Cessna?s entry in the popular light sport aircraft category. It features the Garmin G300 avionics suite and a Teledyne Continental O200D engine. Priced at $112,250, the two-seat, single-engine aircraft has a maximum cruise speed of 118 knots with a maximum range at 6,000 feet of 440 nautical miles. Fabrication and assembly is centered at Shenyang Aircraft Corporation in Shenyang, China. Aircraft are shipped to Cessna?s U.S. reassembly site. 

Designed as a low-cost flight trainer, Skycatchers have been delivered to several Cessna Pilot Centers around the country. Cessna Pilot Centers are independently owned and operated flight training affiliates that offer Cessna?s proprietary training curriculum and Cessna aircraft for flight training.  

There are more than 280 CPCs in the United States and around the world, providing customers with an array of services including flight training. The following CPCs are now using the Skycatcher in flight training: Atlas Aviation, Tampa, Fla.; Bay Air Flying Service, St. Petersburg, Fla; Bob Miller Flight Training, Lancaster, N.Y.; Downtown Aviation, Memphis, Tenn.; Eagle Aircraft, Valparaiso, Ind.; Falcon Executive Aviation, Mesa, Ariz.; Kansas Aviation, Wichita, Kan.; Panorama Flight Service, White Plains, N.Y.; SkyVenture Aviation, Fayetteville, Ark.; Space Coast Aviation, Merritt Island, Fla.; Spirit Aviation, Thomason, Ga.; Suburban Aviation, Ypsilanti, Mich.


The complete pilot handbook for the Skycatcher is online. The handbook provides system descriptions and basic operating parameters. Having it online complements Cessna?s new online Sport/Private Pilot Course available through Cessna Pilot Centers. The Skycatcher POH is also available through the course?s online library. Cessna expects to expand the program to include an instrument rating course in the future. The new training program is a key component of Cessna?s effort to make flying more accessible and to re-energize pilot training.  

Customers pursuing the sport certificate have access to all parts of the Cessna Sport/Private Pilot Course and can easily move into the private-pilot-only segments of the course when ready. The Web-based system keeps track of every aspect of their training and they can access training materials from any location where they have access to the Internet. And since it is web-based, changes and updates can be made instantly, with no replacement materials to distribute. 

The Skycatcher design team was named winner of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Piper General Aviation Award for 2010. AIAA presents the Piper General Aviation Award annually for outstanding contributions leading to the advancement of general aviation. The award honors William T. Piper, Sr., who was founder and first president of Piper Aircraft Corporation 1929-1970.

The Cessna Aircraft Company is an airplane manufacturing corporation headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, USA. Their main products are general aviation aircraft. Although they are the most well-known for their small, piston-powered aircraft, they also produce business jets. The company is a subsidiary of the U.S. conglomerate Textron. Cessna's business suffered notably during the late-2000s recession, laying off more than half its workforce between January 2009 and September 2010. 

On 27 November 2007 Cessna announced the new Cessna 162 would be made in the People's Republic of China by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, which is a subsidiary of China Aviation Industry Corporation I (AVIC I), a Chinese government-owned consortium of aircraft manufacturers. By manufacturing the aircraft in China, Cessna reports it saved USD$71,000 in production costs per aircraft, or about 40% of the cost. A second reason cited for moving production to Shenyang Aircraft Corporation was Cessna had no plant capacity available in the USA at the time. 

On 4 November 2008 Cessna's parent company, Textron, indicated that Citation production would be reduced from the original 2009 target of 535 "due to continued softening in the global economic environment" and that this would result in an undetermined number of lay-offs at Cessna. On 8 November 2008, at the AOPA Expo, CEO Jack Pelton indicated that while Cessna sales of aircraft to individual buyers had fallen, but that piston and turboprop sales to business have not. "While the economic slowdown has created a difficult business environment, we are encouraged by brisk activity from new and existing propeller fleet operators placing almost 200 orders for 2009 production aircraft," Pelton stated. 

On 13 November 2008, Cessna announced that a total of 665 jobs would be cut at its Wichita and Bend, Oregon plants starting in January 2009. The Cessna factory at Independence, Kansas, which builds the Cessna piston-engined aircraft and the Cessna Mustang, was not forecast to see any lay-offs, but one third of the workforce at the former Columbia Aircraft facility in Bend was laid off. This included 165 of the 460 employees who built the Cessna 350 and 400. The remaining 500 jobs were eliminated at the main Cessna Wichita plant. 

In January 2009 the company announced 2,000 additional layoffs, bringing the total to 4,600. The job cuts included 120 at the Bend, Oregon facility reducing the plant that built the Cessna 350 and 400 to fewer than half the number of workers that it had when Cessna bought it. Other cuts included 200 at the Independence, Kansas plant that builds the single engined Cessnas and the Mustang, reducing that facility to 1,300 workers. 

On 29 April 2009 the company announced that it was suspending the Citation Columbus program and closing the Bend, Oregon facility. The Columbus program was finally cancelled in early July 2009. The company said "Upon additional analysis of the business jet market related to this product offering, we decided to formally cancel further development of the Citation Columbus". With the 350 and 400 production moving to Kansas, the company indicated that it would lay off 1,600 more workers, including the remaining 150 employees at the Bend plant and up to 700 workers from the Columbus program. In early June 2009 Cessna announced that it would lay-off an additional 700 salaried employees, bringing the total number of lay-offs to 7600 or more than half the company's workers. 

In December 2009 the company announced that it will close its three Columbus, Georgia manufacturing facilities between June 2010 and December 2011. The closures will include the new 100,000-square-foot (9,300 m2) facility that was opened in August 2008 at a cost of US$25M, plus the McCauley Propeller plant. These closures will result in total job losses of 600 in Georgia. Some of the work will be relocated to Cessna's Independence, Kansas or Mexican facilities.


Cessna's parent company Textron posted a loss of US$8M in the first quarter of 2010, largely driven by continuing low sales at Cessna, which were down 44%. Cessna's workforce remained 50% laid-off and CEO Jack Pelton stated that he expected the recovery to be long and slow. 

In September 2010 Cessna CEO Jack Pelton announced a further 700 lay-offs, bringing the total to 8,000 jobs lost. Pelton indicated this round of layoffs was due to a "stalled lackluster economy" and noted that while the number of orders cancelled for jets has been decreasing new orders have not met expectations. Pelton added "our strategy is to defend and protect our current markets while investing in products and services to secure our future, but we can do this only if we succeed in restructuring our processes and reducing our costs.

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