Cessna has completed another step in the assembly of the first mid-size Latitude business jet by mating the wing to the fuselage.
Although pictures of the aircraft released by Cessna show there is still a lot of work to be done, Cessna chief executive Scott Ernest says the programme remains on track to complete first flight within five months.
“We’re actually going to be flying that in February,” Ernest told an audience at the kick-off reception for the Kansas Aviation Expo. “We’re on track for that.”
The 22m (72ft) wingspan of the Latitude includes Cessna’s first application of winglets, albeit curved upwards only moderately at the tip.
The pictures released from Cessna’s factory floor show an aircraft with a completed fuselage, but lacking a tail section, engines and main landing gear. The forward fuselage also appears to have no electrical systems installed.
The Latitude is Cessna’s answer to the competitive threat posed by the Embraer Legacy 450 and 500. Matching a feature unique to the Embraer products in the midsize and super-light market segments, the Latitude will include a flat floor and a stand-up cabin.
The programme is also viewed as critical for Cessna’s hopes to recover business lost in the light jet sector. Cessna slowed production of the Citation Jet (CJ)-series earlier this year due to weak demand, which has never fully recovered from the broader slump caused by the 2008 financial crisis.
The Latitude will be accompanied in the market in a few years’ time by the 4,000nm (7,400km)-range Longitude aircraft.
“Everything is tracking ahead of schedule of where we thought it would be,” Ernest says.