Cessna has become the latest airframe manufacturer to tap into China's growing aircraft production expertise, with the US airframer picking AVIC I subsidiary Shenyang Aircraft to assemble its new Model 162 SkyCatcher light sport aircraft (LSA).
Under the terms of the agreement, Shenyang will be responsible for aircraft assembly and Cessna will provide on-site personnel to oversee manufacturing, quality assurance and technical design. Cessna will design the aircraft and handle American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) compliance work, and be responsible for sales, distribution, customer service and warranty administration.
"The LSA market demands the latest avionics, safety and reliability, lightweight equipment and a competitive price tag," says Cessna chairman Jack Pelton. "Our solution is to partner with Shenyang Aircraft, a company with excellent facilities, state-of-the-art technologies and a workforce highly experienced in aircraft manufacturing. SkyCatcher customers will get an advanced design, high-quality workmanship and world-class product support, all at an affordable price from Cessna, a brand known and trusted worldwide."
AVIC I president Lin Zouming adds: "With the continual economic growth in China and the changes in China's policies for the general aviation industry, AVIC I has placed strategic importance on general aviation development and will strongly support and promote the business."
The Chinese company, which is based in Shenyang city in north-eastern Liaoning province, employs 16,000 people in its civilian and military aircraft operations. It has worked with companies like Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier, Singapore Technologies Aerospace and Spirit AeroSystems. Cessna says that this experience was a vital factor in its choice of partners.
"Through decades of joint production ventures and subassembly ventures with the industry's top manufacturers, Shenyang Aircraft has emerged as the premier aircraft enterprise in China," says Pelton. "That experience and their outstanding facilities and production capabilities make them the perfect partner for us on the SkyCatcher programme."
Cessna said in July that it would proceed with the development of the SkyCatcher, and it says that orders have already approached 900. The aircraft features the G300 Garmin glass cockpit and a Teledyne Continental O-200D 100hp (75kW) engine. It will cruise at speeds up to 118kt (218km/h), have a maximum range of 470nm (870km), and be capable of visual flight, day and night operations.
First flight of the prototype SkyCatcher is scheduled for the first half of 2008 and deliveries are expected to begin in the second half of 2009. Cessna expects to produce up to 700 aircraft a year at full-rate production.