On heels of European tour, Cessna plans changes to LCC mock-up

 - July 31, 2007, 7:33 AM

Cessna’s Large Cabin Concept (LCC) mock-up completed a tour of Europe in late June. The extensive public consultation exercise has fueled optimism that the manufacturer will find a market for a new large business jet, while at the same time posed important questions that need to be resolved before any such program can be launched.

The LCC is expected to be back on display at next month’s NBAA show in Atlanta, with some adjustments to the design. But it now seems less likely that Cessna will give the program the go-ahead before year-end, as company president and chairman Jack Pelton suggested when he first unveiled the concept at last year’s NBAA show in Orlando, Fla.

The LCC finished a seven-stop European tour at the London-area Farnborough Airport on June 28 and was shipped back to Wichita the next day.  

The next key issues for Cessna are at what price a new large-cabin Citation could hit the market. Key drivers in this decision will be engine and avionics selection, and the U.S. airframer has indicated that it still has a good way to go in negotiating these issues.

“Clearly there is an opportunity to tap new engine and avionics technology–such as 3-D terrain mapping and PlaneView integration–but we also have to consider whether new-generation technology is worth waiting for and how it affects the [market entry] timing and price,” explained Tom Perry, Cessna’s regional sales manager for the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia.

The envisioned range for Cessna’s new jet is 4,000 nm. The company is driven largely by the need to fill the large-cabin gap in its product portfolio–a situation that currently leads many contented Citation owners to start looking at roomier offerings from rivals Dassault, Gulfstream, Bombardier and Hawker Beechcraft when they need more space.

According to Cessna, visitors to the LCC have reacted favorably to the design concepts on show. Lydia Pierce, one of Cessna’s cabin design team, said “People said they loved the space, the comfort and the architecturally inspired features.”
Cessna’s cabin design team has previously worked on significantly smaller airframes and took a clean-slate approach for the LCC. “We are trying to get fresh, human-centric design for this class of aircraft,” said Pierce.

What catches the eye in the cabin concept is the amount of headroom not just in the center of the aisle, but also above the seats themselves, where the panels have been sculpted inventively. Another Cessna designer, Gary Sauber, said that a lot of work has gone into the cabin lighting in an effort to achieve the sort of ambiance found in a really well designed building.

The cabin also features novel combinations of natural and manmade materials so that traditional wood veneers and marble sit alongside attractive vinyls.

The design team will be looking to make further improvements in areas such as the cabin tables and how space will be used for the flight attendant who is expected to fly with the aircraft. There may be some changes to the layout of the forward galley area (perhaps with the addition of a forward lavatory), but the basic dimensions of the cabin are not expected to change much as the program advances.