has logged nearly 200 hr. on its Jet A-fueled Turbo Skylane JT-A aircraft since it first flew in May, and company executives say the aircraft remains on track for delivery in the third quarter.
The manufacturer unveiled plans to develop the diesel-powered Skylane at EAA AirVenture 2012 in Oshkosh, hoping to tap into a growing demand for alternatives to light aircraft powered by aviation gasoline, particularly in parts of the world where aviation gasoline (avgas) is not readily available.
Jodi Noah, Cessna senior vice president of single engine/propeller aircraft, says the company has just begun displaying the diesel Skylane—including a trip in which the aircraft traveled from Nova Scotia to Guernsey in the Channel Islands off the coast of England.
Cessna expected initial interest to come from the international markets, and “we’re seeing that there,” Noah says. But what has taken the company by surprise is the interest Cessna is seeing in the U.S. “We didn’t expect the U.S. to be an early adopter,” Noah adds.
This interest is not necessarily stemming from a concern over the future of avgas, instead it is due more to the fact that theSMA-powered aircraft burns less fuel and has greater range. Also, the aircraft is quieter than the traditional Cessna 182 Skylane, which Noah says is important for customers living in noise sensitive areas.
The company, meanwhile, is approaching initial deliveries of its China-assembled Caravans by the end of the year—paving the way into a market where Cessna executives see vast potential. Cessna has sold 12-14 Caravans to China in the past two years, and “we’re thinking that’s the tip of the iceberg,” Noah says.
She acknowledges that the airspace restrictions have been a significant barrier, but as China relaxes those restrictions Cessna sees a variety of interest. The company delivered an aircraft equipped with floats that is now used for tours, Noah says. “It’s a whole new concept,” she says. “Over the next 10 years, we will see a night and day difference [in the Chinese market].”
Other international sales for Cessna’s new, more powered Grand Caravan EX, which began shipping earlier this year with a 867-hp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-140 engine, has picked up particularly in Africa and Russia. More than a dozen of the Caravans have been sold into Africa, Noah says. In Russia, the potential to use the aircraft for commuter operations has drawn customers, she adds.
But while sales are improving for Cessna’s new slate of aircraft, the same cannot be said for its 162 SkyCatcher light-sport aircraft. Cessna delivered just a couple in the first quarter and eight in the second.
The 162 backlog once stood at “more than 1,000,” but Cessna was losing money on every one produced, so it raised the price “and the backlog just disappeared,” President and CEO Scott Ernest had said. When asked about the program, Noah responded, “We have availability. We’re still taking orders.
A little more than 200 SkyCatchers have been delivered.
Cessna, meanwhile, is teaming with Kansas State University on pilot training. Cessna and the university today are scheduled to sign an agreement to enable students who take flight training at the Cessna Pilot Centers to receive university credit. The credit, which would be available beginning fall of 2014, would count towards a bachelor’s degree in technology management.