Cessna's new light jet move signals industry optimism

Washington DC
Source: Flightglobal.com
This story is sourced from Flightglobal.com

Cessna quietly launched the CJ3+ in a private ceremony in Wichita, Kansas, with an undisclosed customer on 20 March, bolstering the middle of its light jet offerings with new avionics and interiors features.

Despite the low-key unveiling, the subsidiary of the newly-formed Textron Aviation segment’s latest product reflects a new sense of optimism growing in the long-suffering light jet sector.

“I am cautiously optimistic,” says Kriya Shortt, senior vice-president of sales. “It does seem we’ve turned a corner.”

The CJ3+ integrates the Garmin G3000 avionics suite, new interiors, a redesigned cabin and cockpit and new pressurisation.

Cessna is holding the list price of the CJ3+ to $8.05 million, the same as the non-upgraded model, Shortt says.

Performance and specifications of the updated aircraft also remains unchanged. The CJ3+ is still a 1.1m stretch of the CJ2+, with 260nm (480km) more range. On the other side is the CJ4, which is 0.7m longer with about 50nm (90km) more range.

“Cessna are marketing masters at having little incremental steps between product and the next,” says Brian Foley, a business aviation industry analyst.

Like the rest of the light jet sector, demand for the CJ3 peaked in 2008 when Cessna delivered 88 aircraft, according to General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) data.

Orders continued falling for five years in a row, dropping finally to 15 deliveries in 2013, the GAMA data shows.

Cessna plans to deliver the first CJ3+ in the third quarter this year. Asked if the new model could help increase shipments of the CJ3 line compared to last year, Shortt says the late-year timing of first delivery could hinder the company’s ability to raise output.

In the long-term, however, the light jet sector should expect a long-awaited revival, Foley says.

Pent-up demand for light jets should produce double-digit annual sales growth in the light jet segment within the next five years, he says.