Cessna-Avic Talks On Track

By Bradley Perrett, John Morris
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
April 22, 2013
Credit: Cessna Aircraft

Negotiations are much easier between two parties than three. As Cessna and two Avic subsidiaries move toward setting up factories in China that will turn out aircraft from the U.S. company, the projects that will come under the wing of general aviation specialist Caiga are advancing a little faster than the one that will be handled by fighter-maker AAT.

One unresolved issue is whether and where to build a new factory for the AAT project at Chengdu.

Altogether, the complex process of setting up assembly lines for at least three Cessna aircraft in China, adding to the manufacturing of another that is already done there, appears to be going smoothly. The AAT deal, to assemble Cessna Citation Sovereign business jets, is lagging the two Caiga projects because it also involves a third party, the Chengdu government, says Bill Schultz, Cessna's senior vice president for business development in China.

AAT, whose agreement was announced in March 2012, is getting help from its city government for its project. Caiga's agreement with Cessna was announced in November 2012, but that Avic subsidiary had already secured backing from local authorities for the plants that will assemble Citation XLS+ jets in Zhuhai and Caravan utility turboprops in Shijiazhuang.

The first Caravan should emerge from its Chinese factory in the third quarter of this year, and the first Citation XLS+ by the end of the year, both on time. “The facilities have been constructed,” says Schultz, speaking at the Asian Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition in Shanghai. “We've equipped them with tooling and are training the employees.”

The first Chinese Citation Sovereign is also due at the end of the year but may be delayed until early next, says another official. If negotiations go smoothly from here, it might be possible for AAT and Cessna to meet the target by doing just the last stages of assembling an aircraft in China, putting together major modules shipped from the U.S.

Meeting the end-2013 delivery target for the Citation Sovereign may not matter much, anyway, at least politically. Aircraft programs in China are hardly known for being on schedule, and negotiations to move assembly to China from another country were always going to be difficult. For all three projects, the talks must include the Civil Aviation Administration of China and the FAA. “Now we're awaiting approvals from the central government, and hope to receive those by mid-year,” says Schultz.

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