Cessna is to build its Model 162 SkyCatcher light sport aircraft in China following an agreement with design and manufacturing giant Shenyang Aircraft.

As well as strengthening Cessna's foothold in the booming Chinese general aviation market, the venture will allow Cessna to produce the SkyCatcher as an affordable, high-specification, entry-level aircraft, due to low manufacturing and labour costs.

As part of the agreement Cessna will design the aircraft, handle American Society for Testing and Materials compliance work, provide on-site personnel to oversee manufacturing, quality assurance and technical design. Shenyang, a subsidiary of government-owned Aviation Industry Corporation I (AVIC I), will be responsible for assembling all SkyCatchers at its base in north-east China.

AVIC I president Lin Zouming says: "With the continual economic growth in China and the changes in China's policies for general aviation industry, AVIC I has placed strategic importance on general aviation development and will strongly support and promote the business."

Cessna unveiled its proof-of-concept light sport aircraft in July 2006 to gauge market response. A year later, with customer demand reaching unprecedented levels, Cessna launched development and branded its two-seat aircraft the Model 162 SkyCatcher. Within two days of its debut the all-metal 162 had accumulated more than 400 orders. Now the order tally for the Garmin G300-equipped, 100hp (75kW) Teledyne Continental O-200D-powered aircraft is approaching 900.

The SkyCatcher will cruise at 118kt (218km/h), have a maximum range of 870km (470nm) and be capable of visual flight rules day and night operations. Maximum gross weight will be 600kg (1,320lb), service ceiling 15,500ft (4,730m), its useful load will be 222kg and it will have a usable fuel load of 90 litres (24USgal).

The SkyCatcher has tricycle landing gear with a castering nose wheel and standard dual toe-actuated disc brakes. The aircraft is the first Cessna design since the Model 188 in 1965 to incorporate a control stick.

First flight is set for the first half of 2008, leading to deliveries in the second half of 2009.

Cessna plans to build 50 aircraft in the first year, climbing to 700 a year at full-rate production, although this date has yet to be determined. The first 1,000 SkyCatchers will be priced at $109,500 and subsequent units will cost $111,500.

Source: Flight International