Light jet upgrade expected to swell US manufacturer’s already bulging orderbook and increase production rates

Cessna has announced development of the Citation Encore+, an upgraded successor to its Encore light jet, at the National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) in Florida, and revealed plans to boost production of jets and pistons in 2006.

The development builds on the recent successful introduction of the Citation CJ1+, CJ2+ and CJ3, and upgrades the Encore with the same Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 integrated avionics suite, as well as improving the interior. The aircraft will also feature Pratt & Whitney Canada PW535B engines with dual-channel, full-authority digital engine control (FADEC), in place of the original PW535As.

The aircraft is expected to have a useful load, excluding two pilots, 3,000kg (6,600lb), or an increase of more than 90kg over the standard Encore. Other avionics to be standard on the Encore+ include a terrain collision avoidance system, enhanced ground proximity warning system, and graphical weather datalink .

The Encore+ launch is the latest in a string of new or derivative programme developments from Cessna, the most recent being the Mustang entry-level jet. President and chief executive Jack Pelton also acknowledges that Cessna continues to study a larger Citation X super mid-size jet.

“One of the dilemmas we have is that if you want to move up from a Citation X or Sovereign we don’t have anything to offer. We want to make sure we’re a player in all categories,” he says.

The Encore+ is expected to further boost Cessna’s orderbook, which is bulging with a $6 billion backlog. Production rates for jets and pistons are being raised as a result. Led largely by accelerated assembly of the latest Citation Sovereign, CJ3 and XLS models, jet production is scheduled to rise to 290 aircraft in 2006 against 245 this year.

Part of the growth will come from the Mustang, of which “two are in flight test, and the third joins in January, when we start completion of the certification process,” says Pelton, who adds: “We will see between 100 and 150 Mustangs produced a year, which is the highest in volume terms we’ll have done.”

Cessna’s highest volume production had been between 60 and 70 XLS aircraft a year. However, Pelton is not complacent about the production task ahead. “It doesn’t take many hiccups before you get behind the power curve,” he says.

Next year could also see the unveiling of a next-generation Cessna piston single to succeed the iconic high-wing 172/182 and 206 models. “When we went back into single piston production in 1996 we committed in the long term to do something new in that end of the market. We’ve been looking at what is the right family of products, and when the timing is right for us to do that.”

Production of the singles will total around 850 in 2005, “and we will grow that again in 2006”, says Pelton, who adds that the next generation of aircraft, when launched, will “obsolete the traditional models”.


Source: Flight International