Textron chairman Lewis Campbell says demand for Cessna Citation Jets fuelled by increasing international orders will spur a significant increase in production by 2013 despite world economic fears.

The prediction comes as Cessna smashes its annual order target of 70 aircraft for its new Citation 850 Columbus business jet within months after the aircraft's launch.

Cessna's orderbook stands at 1,638 jets, says Campbell, representing 3.5 times the company's 2008 production capacity of 470 jets. Cessna booked 201 aircraft orders in the second quarter and a total of 437 so far for the year, bringing the total backlog to 1,638 jets.

 Cessna Citation Columbus
 © Cessna

Columbus orders increased by 35 in the quarter, to 71, prompting the airframer to re-evaluate its production output for the large-cabin business jet to satisfy the burgeoning demand. Cessna chief executive Jack Pelton says: "When we launched the Columbus in February we expected to have 70 sales by the end of the year. However, response to the aircraft has been overwhelming so we may have to increase annual production from 40 to 60 aircraft at full ramp-up," he says.

Campbell admits that orders will "soften" in 2009 "compared with the blistering rates over the past seven quarters." He says growth in international markets and the "size and resiliency" of the Cessna's immense backlog will buffer the "extremely strong" subsidiary.

"The backlog gives us complete confidence to raise production [to 535 jets] next year," he says, adding that 95% of those production slots are already sold out.

Campbell says international orders will continue to accelerate, in part due to cultural acceptance of business aircraft abroad, build-out of aviation infrastructure there and continuing dissatisfaction with airline travel. He says: "Our analysis shows that there will be 700 Citation deliveries per year within five years."

Source: Flight International