Cessna still mulling LCC bizjet

 - September 24, 2007, 4:45 PM

It was one year ago, at the NBAA Convention in Orlando, that Cessna took the wraps off its concept for a large-cabin long-range business jet (code-named LCC) and began a “what do you think of this?” process that continues at this year’s convention, after appearances by the mockup at EBACE in Geneva and the Paris Air Show earlier this year. The Wichita OEM has not made up its mind about launching such a project and “continues to perform exploratory design work with the goal of announcing in the first quarter of 2008 a decision on whether to proceed.” The full-scale mockup is on display here in Atlanta at Cessna’s booth (No. 8550).

“We’re working hard to get to closure on a business case for the large-cabin concept,” said Cessna chairman, president and CEO Jack Pelton here yesterday. With a backlog of $11 billion, Cessna knows a thing or two about business cases. “We sold 525 business jets this year through the end of August, compared with 496 in all of last year. We delivered 306 jets in 2006, we expect to deliver 380 by the end of this year and we’ll deliver 470 in 2008, all of them sold out already,” noted Pelton. “The challenge,” he said, “is to do all this in a manner that shareholders expect.” A three-year agreement with the machinists signed earlier this month paves the way for the smooth fulfillment of this massive order backlog. 

Cessna continues to put the LCC design through wind-tunnel testing to investigate range (it will be intercontinental), speed and stability characteristics for what would be the largest business jet developed by the company. In the fourth quarter, the company will conduct tests in Bedford, England, to determine high-speed characteristics and in San Diego to examine low-speed handling qualities and high-lift systems.

On the static display today (and in model form on its booth), Cessna is showing a Citation X with winglets designed by Wichita-based Winglet Technology, whose president, Bob Kiser, was quick to note that his company’s elliptical design is patented and different from the widely known Aviation Partners winglets flying on a rapidly growing number of business jets and airliners.

Flight testing of production-conforming Winglet Technology elliptical winglets will begin later this week (the winglets on the Citation X here at NBAA were installed after the airplane had arrived in Atlanta), and they will be offered as an STC retrofit for $395,000 for the 276 Citation Xs already in service.

Since flight-testing has yet to begin, Cessna is not venturing to publish any hard numbers for performance gains, but its engineers and Winglet Technology’s expect higher weight/altitude/temperature limits, allowing more flexibility when operating from hot-and-high airports, improved climb performance that allows higher initial cruise altitudes for some takeoff weights, higher maximum cruise speeds at high altitudes and longer range for a given payload throughout the operating envelope.

Cessna also will anounce here that it is offering the option of TKS icing protection for cargo pod-equipped versions of the Caravan utility turboprop single.