Skycatcher's End

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Cessna President and CEO Scott Ernest is signaling that Skycatcher, the company's low-cost, Chinese-built light-sport aircraft, has been relegated to the history books. "There's no future," Ernest said when asked about the aircraft at a Cessna press conference Oct. 21 at the NBAA convention in Las Vegas. Asked if that meant the project would be discontinued, he replied, "No future." Skycatcher was launched six years ago with great fanfare by Ernest's predecessor, Jack Pelton. Offered at an introductory price of $109,500, the aircraft attracted 720 orders worth more than $75 million in the first three weeks after launch, and backlog ultimately topped 1,000. But the project was bedeviled by manufacturing problems at its Chinese partner. Cessna also was forced to raise Skycatcher's price, which caused its backlog to evaporate. Ernest was more upbeat on two new signature projects at the aircraft builder. The Citation Latitude mid-sized jet is on track to make its inaugural flight in the first quarter of 2014, and the Citation X -- billed at the "world's fastest civilian aircraft" -- is expected to win final certification in March.

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