Cessna lengthens its order backlog in the Middle East

 - November 11, 2007, 6:53 PM

Cessna announced yesterday that its authorized sales representative for the region, Wallan Aviation in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has placed an order for 25 airplanes valued at $110 million. Eleven are Citation business jets and the rest single-engine airplanes, 10 of which Wallan will use for a flight school it plans to establish in Riyadh next year.

The order mix includes three Sovereigns, one each of the Citation X, XLS+, CJ3 and CJ2+ models, four Mustangs, 10 turbo-diesel Skyhawks and four light-sport SkyCatchers. The diesel-powered Skyhawk has attracted considerable interest since its launch last month from buyers around the world. Cessna notched an order here at the Dubai Air Show for 10 Skyhawk TDs from Ethiopian Airlines, which will use the airplanes for ab initio pilot training.

Cessna lays claim to being the world’s most prolific business jet maker with a current order backlog of almost $12 billion and a global fleet of some 5,000 Citations operating around the world. The Middle East is becoming a fertile market for the Wichita, Kansas company as private individuals in the region subscribe to the notion of travel on business jets.

“Private businessmen in this part of the world have been buying business jets for a long time,” noted Trevor Esling, Cessna vice president for international sales, “It’s just that there are many more of them now, and they are increasingly buying smaller jets. The economic development in the Middle East will really propel our business in the next few years.”

About 45 Citation business jets fly out of the Middle East, Esling said, and more arrive here at a rate of about 10 to 15 a year. “We expect that trend to continue and probably increase,” he said. Saad Wallan, Wallan Aviation’s chairman, said private aviation in the Gulf region is still far behind other parts of the world, but it is catching up fast. “In the last four or five years it has really caught on,” he said. “Ninety percent of our customers are first-time buyers.” 

Cessna has been enjoying a strong resurgence in demand for its piston-powered models recently as well. Since introducing the light-sport SkyCatcher at the July Experimental Aircraft Association show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the manufacturer has booked nearly 900 orders from buyers in 37 countries. Cessna said here at the show that it will build 121 Skyhawk TD models next year. A turbocharged four-cylinder Thielert Centurion engine capable of burning Jet-A1 fuel will power the airplane.