Textron Aviation is in the process of delivering its 100th Cessna Citation Latitude midsize business jet.

The delivery, which will be made to NetJets, comes 26 months after the first Latitude entered service.

“Two and a half years ago, this business didn’t exist at Cessna,” Textron Aviation President and CEO Scott Ernest said recently. “Now it’s a billion-dollar business.”

NetJets extended its total order for Latitudes to up to 200 aircraft when it took delivery of its first one in June 2016. It will take delivery of 28 Latitudes this year. The company delivered 42 Citation Latitudes in 2016.

The aircraft is gaining traction and receiving more global recognition, Ernest said.

“In this business, you have to make educated guesses on what the new products have to be,” Ernest said. “It’s hands-down the number-one product out the door.”

Textron Aviation is investing heavily in new products, even though the overall business jet market will likely grow only incrementally, Ernest said. “That’s OK,” Ernest said. “We’re cautiously optimistic that it will go in a positive direction for us.”

The company is building on the lessons learned with the Latitude, a clean-sheet design, in its new Citation Longitude large jet.

The aircraft is on static display at NBAA. After the show, the Longitude will make a demonstration tour in North America before going on an international tour.

“It is hands down the quietest cabin in the industry,” Ernest said. “We set out on that mission.” 

The company is using acoustic windowpanes, isolated interior panels, damped pockets and floors, and other features to cut down noise.

“A lot of science went into it, and we’re very excited about it,” said Brad Thress, Textron Aviation vice president of engineering.

The aircraft’s noise level is the same as that inside a Textron Aviation office, he said.

A ride inside the Longitude test aircraft demonstrated how quiet.  Conversation taking place in the forward zone of the aircraft was audible in the aft section of the aircraft.

Five Longitude are in flight test and the first production aircraft is off the production line. Units through number 14 are in some stage of production line flow.

Longitude test aircraft have completed more than 600 flights and have logged more than 1,200 flight hr., Thress said.

The Citation Longitude is being built inside a former Beechcraft facility, Plant IV, in east Wichita. It’s the first time that a Cessna jet has come down a former Beechcraft production line. Beechcraft ceased jet production during its bankruptcy before it sold to Cessna’s parent company, Textron, in 2014.

Textron Aviation has reorganized and improved Plant IV. And it has invested in the manufacturing processes of the Longitude, including using large, monolithic structures to reduce the number of parts, weight and production time.

It has designed vertical tooling so mechanics stand and work at chest height when they assemble the aircraft. Robots, rather than the mechanics, drill holes for fasteners.

“We really feel good about how the Longitude is progressing,” Ernest said.

The aircraft is powered by two HTF7000 engines and has a range of 3,500 nm with four passengers and maximum cruise of 476 kt.

Certification is expected by the end of 2017 or in early 2018.

Along with the Longitude, Textron Aviation is also developing the Cessna Denali single-engine turboprop, the Citation Hemisphere large jet and the Scorpion military aircraft. All three aircraft are in new markets for the company.

“Those are all spaces we don’t compete in,” Ernest said.