Cessna is aspiring to offer a large-cabin aircraft in its future business jet line-up, as part of its continued focus on new product development and platform enhancements.
"We are conducting advanced research and development across all of our product spaces and there are a number of designs on the drawing board," says Brad Thress, Cessna’s senior vice president of business jets.
Cessna entered the large-cabin arena in 2008, with the launch of the Columbus. The programme was cancelled less than 18 months later following the onset of the global economic downturn.
"We can see the importance of having a large-cabin business jet in the Citation family. Aircraft in this sector generate strong revenues and stability for OEMs so there is a desire to be there in the long term," he adds.
For the time being, Thress says Cessna’s priority is to bring its top-of-the range super-midsize Longitude to market in 2017. "Once we have built up a critical mass of customers for the Longitude, we may consider offering a larger aircraft [to capture the move-up market]," he says.
Cessna’s business jet product offering is mainly centred on the light-cabin and midsize sectors, which have borne the brunt of the economic crisis. During this painful period, the airframer has seen its annual deliveries plummet from a high of 466 in 2008 to only 139 last year.
"It has been a tough few years," Thress says. "The market, particularly the light jet sector, is still stagnant. Markets such as Europe and Brazil softened considerably last year and this impacted heavily on sales. During this period, we also delivered far fewer Sovereigns and Xs [than the previous year] as customers were waiting for deliveries of the upgraded versions of both aircraft," he adds.
According to Flightglobal’s Ascend Online Fleets database, Cessna delivered 22 Sovereigns and six Citation Xs in 2012 compared with 13 and 1 respectively in 2013. The midsize Sovereign+ was certificated late last year and deliveries are now under way. The latest version of the super-midsize, high-speed X is scheduled for certification this quarter and deliveries will begin immediately after, Thress says. "The business jets are greatly enhanced versions of their predecessors and we are very happy with the level of interest in both aircraft," he adds.
Meanwhile, Cessna is readying its Latitude for first flight this quarter. The nine-seat aircraft was launched in 2011 to fill a gap between the superlight XLS+ and the Sovereign. Cessna is building five aircraft for the certification programme – three flying and two static. "This is an exciting time for us," Thress says. Certification and entry into service are scheduled for 2015.