In one week Cessna has agreed to buy the assets of Columbia Aircraft and outsource the manufacture of its new light sport aircraft to China. Both decisions owe a lot to the company’s booming business-jet production, which is filling its factories as well as its coffers.
Cessna has already sold almost 900 Model 162 SkyCatcher LSAs, but at the bargain price of $109,500. So they are to be assembled by Shenyang Aircraft because the Chinese manufacturer can make them more cheaply than Cessna, which will retain responsibility for design, airworthiness compliance and manufacturing oversight.
The Columbia acquisition includes its two upmarket piston singles, to be renamed the Cessna 350 and 400, but also vaults the company into the all-composite light aircraft business. It will be interesting to see how Cessna’s Next Generation Piston project morphs once its product line includes this pair of Cirrus-beaters.
NGP = No Go Plane? Will Columbia change Cessna’s piston thinking?
If Cessna follows the industry trend towards composites, then the former Columbia plant in Bend, Oregon could become the home of a complete range of advanced light aircraft while its Independence, Kansas single-engine plant could switch over completely to the high-volume production of very light jets.