More than three months after Textron CEO Scott Donnelly told analysts its Wichita-based airframer was putting the large-cabin Citation Hemisphere business jet on hold, executives at Textron Aviation (Booth C9343, Static SD503 and SD503A) continue to toe the company line, referring to the jet as on hold and not canceled. But it’s pretty clear they don’t have any plans in the near future to revive what would’ve been the largest, longest-range jet in the Citation product line’s 50-year history.
“We’re always looking at every market,” Textron Aviation senior v-p of sales and marketing Rob Scholl told AIN. "It's obviously a market that our customer base grows into. And I think at some point, we’d love to look into it again and we’ll continue to evaluate engine options and airframe options, and what would make the right sense to come out with a product that goes into that space. But we’re only going to go into that space if we come out with something that truly differentiates itself.”
The Textron Aviation executives also insisted that the singular issue leading to the program’s pause was problems involved with the development of the Safran Silvercrest engine that would have powered the Hemisphere. It’s the same troubled engine program that caused French airframer Dassault to cancel the Falcon 5X in late 2017, even though Safran insisted in July that it was making progress on fixing the engine’s high-pressure compressor. Scholl and Textron Aviation CEO Ron Draper noted there was no other engine currently available on the market to satisfactorily substitute the Silvercrest.
“In the end, the engine and the airframe, they didn't fit,” Draper told AIN. “For the airframe we wanted to build, we didn’t get what we needed. That may be a great engine, but it wasn't a match for what we were trying to do.”
Scholl added that the reason behind shelving the program wasn’t because the Hemisphere had missed its window of opportunity in the marketplace. Just look at NetJets, Scholl said, which just last year had committed to an option for up to 150 of the type. “They wanted a lot of those airplanes,” he said.