Combined Cessna/Beechcraft Makes First Public Appearance

 - April 2, 2014, 7:24 AM
Textron Aviation vice president for pistons Joe Hepburn is in charge of combining the piston lines at Cessna and Beechcraft. While the product line-up has no overlap, he is working to rationalize the production lines while developing new products such as the diesel-powered Cessna 182 JT-A. (Photo: Chad Trautvetter)

Cessna Aircraft and Beechcraft are making their first public appearance as sister companies under the Textron Aviation banner this week at the Sun ’n’ Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Fla., less than three weeks after Textron closed a $1.4 billion deal to acquire Beechcraft. Still, the companies have separate static display areas at the show because, as a spokeswoman explained, there wasn’t enough room at either space to display a combined Cessna/Beech lineup of piston and turboprop aircraft, ranging from the Cessna 172 to Beechcraft King Air 350i.

Like these static displays, the two Wichita-based aircraft manufacturers are still largely separate, as the process of integrating them is now just getting under way, Textron Aviation vice president for pistons Joe Hepburn told AIN yesterday at the airshow. Fortunately, the piston lines at the companies “mesh very well, with no overlap,” he said.

Meanwhile, the R&D programs that were under way at Beechcraft and Cessna before the merger are ongoing, Hepburn said. “Textron is committed to funding R&D, and the key to market growth is new products.”

At the piston end, this includes plans announced by Beechcraft at the 2012 NBAA Convention for “alternative fuel” versions of the Bonanza and Baron, as well as a new piston single positioned between the two airplanes. At Cessna, this includes the diesel-powered C-182 JT-A, which Hepburn said will be certified this summer. However, in the wake of the cancellation of the C-162 SkyCatcher there are no plans to resurrect the Cessna 152 for the training market, he said, adding, “For the foreseeable future, the Cessna 172 is our training platform.”

Expanding on the Cessna 182 JT-A, Hepburn said diesel is a “fantastic technology” that “the marketplace has been pushing for.” He also said that because diesel engines run on jet-A, they skirt the environmental issues surrounding 100LL. Asked if this means diesel-powered versions of other pistons in the Cessna/Beechcraft lineup will follow the C-182 JT-A, he said this is a distinct possibility.