December 27, 2012
Credit: Credit: Cessna
Cessna’s plan to bring up to six new or improved aircraft to market in 2013 is part of an overall strategy to build a new pipeline of products that will arrive just as the market for light and midsized aircraft is expected to strengthen, executives say. But it is also designed to build consumer confidence in a market that has remained uncertain for the past several years, executives say.
“During the downturn, we worked very, very hard to continue new product development, says Brad Thress, senior vice president-business jets for Cessna. “It was important to demonstrate to the market our confidence [in its future]. It was important to reassure our customers.”
Cessna has a full plate of clean-sheet and follow-on aircraft projects, ranging from the diesel version of the Turbo Skylane single-engine aircraft to the super midsize business jet, the Citation Longitude.
Cessna parent Textron has boosted research and development (R&D) spending by as much as 30% throughout the corporation in recent years. That ramp-up has included Cessna, which Thress says is a “vote of confidence” for the Wichita airframer. While sales have gone down, R&D spending has increased – and is near an all-time high as a percentage of sales, Cessna executives say.
The spending is laying the foundation for the new slate of products. In 2013 alone, the company is planning to certify a new Sovereign and Citation X that will incorporate Garmin G5000 avionics, integrated automatic throttles and the Cessna Clarity cabin.
In addition, the Mustang step-up M2 is on target for certification in the first half of the year. Cessna further will begin shipment of the re-engined, more powerful Grand Caravan EX, reintroduce an improved Corvalis TTx to the market and bring online the diesel Turbo Skylane JT-A.
The Citation X was among the first of the new products introduced since the downturn began, unveiled during the 2010 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) annual convention, in part as testimony that the company was investing in the future.
At the time, the company was holding off on introducing other new products, saying the timing was not right in a depressed market. “When you announce a new product, it usually generates a pretty strong order flow,” Scott Donnelly, chairman, president and CEO of Textron, had said at the time. “We don’t want to announce a new upgrade, block-point change or new aircraft if we don’t thing there’s going to be a reasonable level of commercial interest out the door.”
But a number of programs were already under way, Donnelly had assured analysts, and since that time, Cessna has lifted the floodgates, detailing at least nine other projects that span every one of its segments.