Cessna Makes Plans To Harvest Homegrown Citations in China

 - March 27, 2012, 5:26 AM
Scott Ernest, president and CEO of Cessna Aircraft, Wang Yawei, president of Avic Aviation Techniques, and and Shi Lei, head of the Chengdu investment promotion commission.

Cessna Aircraft is making an aggressive move into Asia with plans to manufacture aircraft in China in partnership with Aviation Industry Corp. of China (Avic) and the Chengdu provincial government. Last week, the U.S. manufacturer, Avic and Chengdu signed two strategic agreements that will lead to development of both business and general aviation in China and manufacturing of various Cessna models.

According to Cessna vice president of strategy and business development, Mike Shih, “The agreements pave the way for a range of light and mid-size business jets, utility single-engine turboprops and single-engine piston aircraft to be manufactured and certified in China.”

The OEM expects China to become one of the top 10 countries for business jet ownership by 2025, Shih added, “aided enormously by the ongoing liberalization of the country’s airspace. We are delighted to see that the Chinese government understands the economic importance of general aviation and is committed to supporting the industry.”

Cessna currently works closely with Shenyang Aircraft Co., an Avic subsidiary that manufactures its Model 162 Skycatcher in Shenyang, China.

The new partnership involves Avic Aviation Techniques (AAT). Cessna and AAT signed a cooperation agreement, which also includes the Chengdu government, covering negotiations that will establish a joint venture to produce mid-size business jets, as well as a new product for the business jet market,” according to Cessna. The mid-size models are the Citation Sovereign and Latitude, which Cessna plans to assemble in-country for the China market. The contemplated new product is a business jet in the larger-cabin arena.

According to Wang Yawei, AAT president, the agreement for development of the new jet calls for development of a “large-class” business jet, in parallel with the manufacturing activity that will lead to first delivery of a China-built Sovereign in 2013 and China-built Latitudes following certification and entry into service of that model in the U.S. in 2015.

Brad Thress, senior vice president Cessna Business Jets, said that the Sovereigns and Latitudes built in China would be assembled in Chengdu from components made at the company’s headquarters in Wichita, Kansas. “We see this as incremental business. It will add volume and market for us here but it also adds work volume in Wichita.”

For Cessna, Thress said, the move into China “is not about cost, it’s about market access and fostering the development of business aviation here.” Thress also said that Chinese authorities seem eager to allow general aviation to grow.

According to the Cessna executive, Chinese officials understand that a general-aviation infrastructure is essential for development of Chinese pilots and technicians. “They absolutely intellectually understand it,” Thress said. “We’ve taken them to small airports around Wichita and they’ve seen it. They understand how it works for us. They understand what an important component of the overall aviation infrastructure [general aviation] is.”

“We are facing the boom of the Chinese general aviation and business aviation market,” said Shi Lei, head of the Chengdu investment promotion commission. “Chengdu is ready for that.”

On display in the static area here at the ABACE show are a Citation X, Citation Sovereign, Grand Caravan and a Latitude cabin section mockup.