Cessna eyes range boost for new Sovereign

Washington DC
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Entry into service for the revamped Cessna Sovereign could slip into the fourth quarter, possibly extending a production hiatus of the nine-seat business jet that began in the first three months of the year.

Though Textron officials recently said deliveries of the new Sovereign would resume in the third quarter, the type is now expected to earn certification from the US Federal Aviation Administration in September or October, says Kelly Reich, Cessna's business leader for the Sovereign programme. Entry into service will immediately follow certification, he adds.

So far, the certification process has yielded no surprises. The test fleet has registered 1,300h of total flight time since last October, Reich says. The first production jet that will be delivered to a customer completed a first flight in late April, less than two months after rolling out of Cessna's factory in early March.

"When we announced this aircraft in October, we were almost ready to start production," Reich says.

Cessna has started receiving new orders for the upgraded Sovereign, but some delivery positions in 2013 remain available, he adds. The aircraft has received interest from large cabin jet owners who are looking to trade down.

"People are coming out of larger airplanes that want to look at this class of airplane," he says.

The $17.8 million aircraft offers customers a package of new upgrades, including a critical 150nm (280km) range increase to surpass the transcontinental, 5,550km (3,440 miles) mark.

To achieve the range extension, Cessna replaced the 5,770lb (2,610kg) thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306C turbofan engines with more efficient PW306D models featuring a new full authority digital engine control (FADEC) system. Cessna also extended the wingspan of the new Sovereign by about 2.74m (9ft) by adding winglets.

The new aircraft is showing a reduction in specific fuel consumption in flight tests, Reich says, adding that Cessna is also exploring the possibility of extending the aircraft's range beyond the 280km increase goal.

Inside the aircraft, Cessna has integrated the Garmin G5000 flightdeck with automatic throttles, Clarity cabin management system and new seats.

Last year, Cessna signed an agreement with the Aviation Industry Corp of China (AVIC) to build three aircraft models, including the Sovereign, in China. But discussions involving the Sovereign are moving at a slower pace than the XLS and Caravan models, Reich says. The pace of the talks is driven by the needs and limitations of the Chinese provinces involved in each aircraft programme.

"Completions infrastructure is further along in some provinces than others," Reich says.