Cessna Aircraft (Chalet 190) announced here at ABACE 2013 yesterday that sales are up 50 percent in China from 2011 through 2012, and up in Asia Pacific overall. Meanwhile, the company is making rapid progress with its efforts to operate in China through joint ventures formed with China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. (CAIGA) in Shijiazhuang and Zhuhai. The joint venture with CAIGA involves building Cessna 208 Grand Caravan EXs (Shijiazhuang) and Cessna Citation XLS+ business jets (Zhuhai) for the Chinese market. The company has examples of both aircraft on display here in Shanghai.
Bill Harris, v-p of sales, Asia Pacific, said there are 32 Citations flying in China right now. Admitting they are not yet the best-selling jets in China, he added, “Success is relative. As the market matures, we believe that customers will see that we offer the same luxury as the large cabin jets, but at a size and economy that makes sense for the mission. We believe some owners of large-cabin jets will want a stablemate, a narrowbody jet, such as the new Sovereign or Citation XLS+, for the shorter, or domestic flights.” The XLS+ and the Sovereign carry onboard avionics that make them as capable as the large-cabin jets. “The Garmin 5000 system going into the Sovereign is open-ended,” Harris said, “making it simpler to upgrade as new capabilities come online.”
He also spoke about Cessna’s mentoring program with CAAC, which is part of the company’s efforts to help educate CAAC on the safety of its aircraft, on procedures and on the routing structures necessary for business aircraft to operate efficiently and safely. “I think that the measured path of the CAAC in opening up airspace makes sense in China,” he said.
In the meantime, Cessna’s joint-venture development is ramping up. “There’s a pretty lengthy process to acquire the business license,” said Bill Schultz, who became Cessna’s v-p business development for China in July last year, “presenting business models, anti-trust demonstrations and environmental surveys, for example, and now we’re waiting for central government approval.” In the meantime, the companies have been busy staffing the two ventures and completing facilities. “CAIGA has both the facilities now, and has even built an airport at Shijiazhuang. In Zhuhai they are building a new paint booth and the tooling for production should be in place by year-end,” he said.
“The message is that last year we laid out our plans and that we are right on schedule,” said Schultz. “We expect the first Caravan to be delivered from Shijiazhuang by the end of June or early July, and the first XLS+ will definitely be delivered in the first quarter of 2014.” He declined to give production numbers but stated, “We’re working very hard to ensure we have a production rate suitable to meet demand here in China. We’re also working hard on aftermarket sales capabilities to ensure the aircraft can be maintained.” Schultz said, “The plan is for the two joint ventures to be able to maintain the aircraft that they produce.” It also has the support of Hawker Pacific here in Shanghai and CSIC in Beijing, he added. “Things are speeding up here in China.”
Shultz made it clear at ABACE that the aircraft being produced in China are intended for the Chinese market, exclusively. As for any new products CAIGA and Cessna might develop, the crystal ball is unclear. “We are still exploring the right product for the marketplace,” said Shultz. There are currently no plans to build the Sovereign in China.
As part of their ramp-up process, Cessna and CAIGA announced key senior-management appointments for both joint ventures. Trey Wade, formerly with Cessna sister company Bell Helicopter, has been appointed general manager for the Zhuhai operation. Li Yanbei, previously vice general manager of CAIGA South China Aircraft Industry Co., has been named as the deputy general manager of the Zhuhai joint venture. David Howard has been promoted to general manager of the Shijiazhuang joint venture. Howard was previously responsible for overseeing operations of the Cessna Skycatcher 162 program in Shenyang, China. Jing Weiliang, previously manager of human resources with CAIGA North China Aircraft Industry Co., has been appointed to be the deputy general manager of the Shijiazhuang joint venture. o