Cessna fleet arrives en masse to put rough patch behind it

 - May 3, 2010, 11:28 AM

Cessna Aircraft has brought 10 of the company’s current in-production fleet to the EBACE 2010 static display, including eight Citation jets (Mustang, CJ1+, CJ2+, CJ3, the newly certified CJ4, XLS+, Sovereign and X), a Grand Caravan single-engine turboprop and a piston-engine 400 Corvalis TT.

Although Citation deliveries dropped by more than half during the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year, deliveries of the company’s Citation Mustang very light jet in April reached the 300 mark. The Mustang is now certified and operating in 61 countries.

“Cessna’s been through a rough 18 months,” said chairman, president and CEO Jack Pelton during a press conference yesterday. Last year, Cessna delivered 289 jets. That number is expected to be 225 during 2010, he said. “We’re calling 2010 the trough, and then we expect to see a long, slow recovery with improvement starting around 2011. We’re being cautiously optimistic because we know the economy will continue to be fragile.” Cessna has invested during the recession to improve efficiency and is spending 6 percent of revenues on product development, he said, “which is higher than what we’ve invested in the past.”

According to Roger Whyte, senior vice president of sales and marketing, “The real growth engine outside the U.S. for our products has been Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, where we continue to see good order intake.”

Whyte noted that the number of used aircraft peaked in 2009 and has since trended downward, with prices stabilizing and beginning to climb. Flight activity has also improved. Cessna has secured access to $500 million in funds for financing at favorable rates through an agreement with the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., he said. 

Recent Cessna highlights include delivery of the 300th Citation X last year, the 250th Sovereign, the 300th Mustang, the first CJ4 and later this year the 2,000th Caravan. EASA certification of the CJ4 is expected later this year.

Cessna jet deliveries during the first quarter dropped to 31 from 69 last year, which included 21 Mustangs and 10 other jets, according to Textron president and CEO Scott Donnelly, who provided these numbers during Cessna parent Textron’s release of financial results on April 22. “Cancellations came in slightly above plan,” he added, “although a majority were for deliveries in 2011 and beyond. Looking forward, we see additional cancellations in the second quarter, but we’re expecting orders to pick up as market and economic indicators continue to trend in the right direction.”

Cessna saw aftermarket revenues climb by 6 percent in the first quarter. Citation deliveries during the second quarter should reach 40 to 45 jets, Donnelly said. At the end of the first quarter, Cessna’s backlog was $4.1 billion, down $820 million from the end of 2009.

The 300th Mustang was the second for retail customer Acernus Aero in Wellington, New Zealand, which uses the jets for its property development business and charter operations. Turkish Airlines Flight Training Academy has ordered two Mustangs, which will be used for flight training and based at Istanbul Ataturk Airport.

Cessna also announced yesterday that the EASA granted a supplemental type certificate for retrofit of the Citation X with Winglet Technology elliptical winglets. The drag-reducing winglets include new LED anti-collision and position lights
and lower drag by 5 percent, adding about 200 nm to range.

Next in line for Cessna aftermarket mods is an application for EASA certification of the AdViz glass cockpit upgrade for classic Citations. The AdViz package includes an LCD-based panel designed and produced by Innovative Solutions & Support, which received FAA certification last October. The FAA-approved AdViz STC is currently available for the Citation I, II, SII and V. Additional models including the III and VI should receive FAA approval in late 2010, followed by the I-SP and II-SP early next year. EASA certification of those STCs should take place in the third quarter of next year.

For buyers taking delivery of the recently certified CJ4, training in a new simulator is now available in an FAA-qualified, full-motion, Level D simulator built and operated by FlightSafety International and housed at FlightSafety’s Wichita learning center.

European Market Lagging, Says Pelton

“The worldwide business jet market is showing signs of life,” Cessna Aircraft president, CEO and chairman Jack Pelton told AIN. “However, the European market is languishing behind North America. The recovery in Europe has been a little slower than we expected, but then again we didn’t anticipate the financial problems in Greece or Portugal.” He said the North African market is “doing nicely,” and is hopeful about emerging markets such as the Baltic States.

Pelton is encouraged by the fact that Cessna has seen signs of increasing sales activity in the first quarter, though he is planning for a “slow and steady” recovery starting next year. “The market seems to be following the forecast predictions,” he noted.

Pelton is excited about the Citation CJ4 entering service, and he believes the mid-light twinjet will do well in the European market. The CJ4 is expected to earn European certification in October, with first deliveries to the Old World scheduled for early next year. Pelton cited the CJ4’s performance, 2,000-nm range, high efficiency and full fuel payload of 1,000 pounds as being appealing to European buyers. “It’s a great value for European customers,” he added. The CJ4 is making its EBACE debut this year at Cessna’s static display.