Tom Haines

Banner day for Cessna Aircraft

May 6, 2008 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

May 5–Quite a Cinco de Mayo for Cessna Aircraft. For perhaps the first time in the 80-year-old company’s history two new models had their first flights on the same day–sort of. The first flight of the CJ4 prototype business jet rocketed off of Wichita’s McConnell Air Force Base for a 2-hour and 22-minute test flight. Meanwhile, just a few thousand yards away under the approach path to McConnell, the first production model of the tiny Cessna SkyCatcher light sport aircraft put daylight under its tires as it lifted off from Cessna Aircraft Field Airport for a 30-minute flight.

As points of contrast, the CJ4 will cruise at a max speed of 435 knots while carrying 1,000 pounds of fuel and with a max payload of 2,100 pounds. The SkyCatcher is expected to breeze along at 118 knots (about the CJ4′s approach speed) while carrying about 144 pounds of fuel and a useful load of 490 pounds.

But, hey, they both have glass cockpits–the CJ4 sports a Collins Pro Line 21 system while the SkyCatcher panel hosts a Garmin G300.

Which would you rather have–high and fast or low and slow?

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8 Responses to “Banner day for Cessna Aircraft”

  1. Phil Solomon Says:

    Tom

    I fully understand the need to be very positive towards the successes of your advertizers and sponsors but as a journalist do you not think that it would behove you to ocassionally report something beyond official Cessna announcements. For example you might mention that Skycatchers that were scheduled to be in customers’ hands by fourth quarter 2008 are being told to expect a date more like 4th quarter 2011. You might also point out that a significant number of the deposits made for the Skycatcher were from Cessna pilot centers who were given no choice but place orders.

  2. Rick Says:

    Tom,
    Thanks for the quick update on the CJ4 and the Skycatcher. Perhaps an interview with the pilots to get their handling impressions would have been interesting. Especially for the Skycatcher, since docile characteristics through the roundout and flare are critical to acceptance in the training role. Also, referencing the production delay mentioned by Phil Solomon, one can’t help wonder what the price of fuel will do to the light sport market by 2011. We’ve allowed the left in this country to own the oil production agenda for a long time. Sytematically choking off our own production and refining capability has helped make the price of aviation fuel prohibitive. If there is one pilot out there who still votes for the party that obstructs oil exploration and production, I’d urge that pilot to WAKE UP before all airplanes are in the Smithsonian.

  3. Tom Haines Says:

    Phil,

    Thanks for the comments. Cessna admits there has been confusion around delivery dates for the SkyCatcher. The official word from Cessna today is:

    “There has been some confusion with people who ordered SkyCatchers at Oshkosh in assuming the number that appeared on the electronic board we had set-up at the SkyCatcher display to be the serial number (production position) they would receive. In fact, we pre-allocated SkyCatcher delivery positions in advance of Oshkosh to our CPCs, CSTARs, Fleet customers and retail purchasers. This has resulted in some purchasers being disappointed in the preliminary delivery schedule information they were provided last month. When we are able to provide a more complete explanation of the situation most order holders understand, but obviously, almost everyone would like to be able to take delivery of their new SkyCatcher as soon as possible.”

    One company spokesman today described the SkyCatcher program like this: “there is absolutely no delay in the program – running like a Swiss clock.”

    Also, at Oshkosh last year Cessna did note–and we reported–that 80 percent of the initial orders were from flight schools and FBOs.

    Perhaps you have other insight, but I’m told that the Cessna Pilot Centers were championing the SkyCatcher project and anxious to place the orders.

  4. Jay Says:

    Comments like Rick’s never seem to amaze me. He refers, I suspect, to the Democratic Party as the one that obstructs oil production. I’m sorry to disappoint you, Rick, but there most certainly will be at least one pilot out there who will vote blue this November.

    I enjoy flying as much as most other private pilots, but somehow I can’t bring myself to make a choice about who our elected officials should be based on what the cost of fuel might be in 2011. There are bigger issues, like are we still going to be mired in a pointless exercise in Iraq, are we going to looking at an even more regressive Supreme Court, will we still have a tax structure that favors the very wealthy, and will our commitment to real education for our younger generations be as weak as it it today.

    I can point to 4,000 Americans who would happily pay dearly for fuel, rather than have paid dearly with their lives.

  5. Owen Says:

    I’d like to correct a couple of statements made here in the comments.

    First, Cessna has never claimed any 162s would be deilvered in 4th quarter 2008. The first delivery date has always been 2nd half 2009. See the 7/22/07 press release: “First flight of the prototype Model 162 is set for the first half of 2008 and deliveries are expected to begin in 2009.” Or Avweb’s 7/23/07 newsflash: “A conforming prototype is expected to be flying by next summer, with ASTM certification planned by the end of 2008 and first deliveries in the second half of 2009.” And Aero-news said on 7/22/07: “As mentioned previously, entry-into-service is planned for the second half of 2009.”

    Second, there is no requirement that any Cessna Pilot Center must buy a Skycatcher. To qualify for CPC affiliation they have to operate at least one Cessna that is less than two years old, but it doesn’t have to be a Skycatcher.

    Third, with respect to the claim that 80% of orders were from CPCs and FBOs, I can’t find that anywhere on the AOPA website so I don’t know the details. It may have been true on 7/24/07 when they were reporting 400 orders in two days. However I’ve seen an employee newsletter that showed the breakdown of the first 901 orders (12/15/07) and more than 50% of those are direct customer orders.

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  7. Catherine Resplandy Says:

    Two years on from that first comment from Phil Solomon so If the Skycatcher program is running “like a Swiss clock” as Cessna indicates what does that tell you about Swiss clocks? 1,000 orders and how many deliveries so far? One to the wife of the CEO and ….

  8. Hans Says:

    What takes Cessna so long to build and deliver Skycatchers? I fly out of a small, non-towered airport where during the last year more small aircraft were built and finished than mighty Cessna has during the same time.
    It would be nice if Cessna would be more open and honest about delivery dates. Are there more than a handful of people building these planes? I doubt it.
    That “Swiss clock” statement by by Phil Solomon is good for a laugh.

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