Cessna to open giant Wichita facility

 - July 25, 2007, 9:40 AM

When Cessna opened its new 159,000-sq-ft Orlando Citation Service Center on June 21, the facility became the largest in the company’s service-center network. And with a second construction phase adding another 26,000 sq ft due to be completed early next month, it’s hard to believe that this 185,000-sq-ft complex will no longer hold this distinction by Thanksgiving.

That’s because later next month Cessna will open its mammoth 447,259-sq-ft Wichita Citation Service Center at Mid-Continent Airport. Of that space, approximately 250,000 sq ft will be hangar area; Cessna will use the remainder for offices, back shops and customer amenities. The new facility–located literally down the road from Cessna’s Citation manufacturing plants–sits on a 124-acre site, with ample room for expansion. It will replace the existing 105,000-sq-ft service center/customer-support facility, which will become a Citation Sovereign completion center.

For perspective, if the 102-story Empire State Building were laid on its side, the new service center would still be longer, Cessna said. In fact, the undertaking is one of the biggest construction projects in Kansas, and the Wichita service center will be the largest general aviation maintenance facility in the world. Major site work began in November 2001, and construction work started about 17 months ago.

But to describe the facility as merely a maintenance center doesn’t really do it justice. The new complex will house four maintenance bays (with further expansion for two more–one at each end), a paint hangar, component repair and overhaul shops, parts-supply rooms, a customer business center and office space for Cessna’s customer-support center. Then there’s the crew lounge, passenger lounge, flight-planning room, snooze room, showers, in-house restaurant, coffee bar and Cessna gift shop, among other amenities.

Line services will also be provided, but only for customers who are visiting to have maintenance work done. Cessna’s spare parts depot will not make the move to the new center; rather, it will stay in the existing building less than a half-mile down the road.

Cessna Completes Last Details
When AIN toured the new service facility last month, construction workers were busy completing the building’s interior. The third floor was mostly done, with the exception of carpet and office doors, and the first and second floors were quickly taking shape. Hangar E had just had its floor coated and was nearly ready for move-in, and workers were spraying an epoxy coating on the floor of Hangar C. Meanwhile, workers were installing Hangar A’s exterior doors and completing the finishing touches on the inside of the 60,000-sq-ft cavity. Hangars C and E have the same area as A, while Hangar F is 40,000 sq ft.

The plan for the massive, $60 million center began more than four years ago in response to the rapid growth of the Citation fleet. When major site work was completed two years ago, the Cessna twinjet fleet stood at about 3,700 airplanes; there are now nearly 4,200 Citations in service worldwide. This number is expected to top 5,000 by the end of the decade.

“With the continued growth of the Citation fleet, this new service center is necessary to handle the higher volume of service needs,” noted senior v-p of customer service Ron Chapman. Upon completion late next month, most of the Wichita facility’s capacity will be used immediately, he added.

The new service center will see its workforce swell by at least 500 people before grand-opening ceremonies are held in early December, and during the next five years the workforce at the facility is expected to double. To meet this demand, Cessna has been working with the state of Kansas, Sedgwick County, the city of Wichita and local schools to recruit skilled people.

Meanwhile, the company isn’t done with expanding its Citation service-center network. Chapman told AIN that the Wichita-based aircraft manufacturer plans to add at least two more centers in the next three to five years. In addition, he said the service network’s roster of 1,650 employees will grow by 700 to 1,000 during the same period.