Scott Ernest, who joined Textron and took over as CEO of the company’s Cessna subsidiary in May 2011, recently presided over one of the largest manufacturer mergers in aviation history this year, the integration of Cessna and Beechcraft. In March Textron bought Beechcraft for $1.4 billion and placed the Cessna and Beechcraft brands under the newly formed Textron Aviation, headed by Ernest as president and CEO.
At EBACE 2014, Textron Aviation is debuting as the parent of the integrated Cessna and Beechcraft brands, with nine aircraft on display. These include the recently certified Citation M2 and Sovereign+, plus the CJ4, XLS+ and Grand Caravan EX and Beechcraft Baron G58, King Air C90GTx and 250 and special mission King Air 350ER.
Ernest, a mechanical engineer who spent 29 years at GE Aviation, told AIN, “I just thoroughly enjoy this job. I wake up extremely excited every day. Having the opportunity to work with the team and the enthusiasm they bring to bear on customer support, it’s fun, and this is a wonderful opportunity.”
While some indications show improving circumstances for business aviation, Ernest remains cautious. “The indicators are coming in the right direction,” he said. “The used [inventory] is starting to shrink on our products. They overbuilt in the 2006 to 2008 timeframe then went through some pretty tough winters, but it’s starting to shake itself out. I never knew what it was like when it was really good, but I feel people are interested in talking to us about our products. It helps to have new products. I just spent a whole week on the road talking to new customers [who say they are] going to buy new aircraft this year. That’s a good sign.”
Meanwhile, Ernest is confident that the integration of Beechcraft and Cessna is well underway. “We had teams that were formed across each of the key categories, and they did a really good job pulling together best practices and synergy opportunities.” The combined companies are organized across product lines, with one executive leading all product support activities, one in charge of turboprops (King Air and Caravan) and one in charge of jets. Within the two companies’ service center networks, mechanics are being cross-trained to work on Cessna, Hawker and Beechcraft models so customers can bring their airplane to any of the now Textron-owned maintenance facilities.
Each business leader for these product categories has been tasked with looking ahead five to seven years, Ernest explained, “as to what that product family needs to look like, what type of investment to make and the payback for that investment. It’s a focused effort to make sure we’re allocating investment dollars to have the right returns and the most customer satisfaction. Beech hasn’t had the opportunity to have that investment focus because of the nature of its financial condition.” Where Cessna expertise can help, he added, is that, “We definitely know how to invest in and certify products. That’s how you stay in this business.” Further aiding future growth is that the Beechcraft acquisition adds factory capacity to Textron Aviation, including two full assembly bays at the Beechcraft buildings. “It’s a great opportunity as we look at new products,” he said. “We won’t have to invest in any infrastructure.”