Cessna has completed a comprehensive restructuring of its business jet operations in Wichita, Kansas, while at the same time launching a new Citation jet programme to fill the gap between the entry-level Mustang and the CJ2+ light jet.
The action is part of a broader strategy under way at the US manufacturer to resuscitate its ailing light and mid-sized business jet market, which saw a drastic loss of revenue in 2008.
Cessna's business jet deliveries plummeted linearly from 466 in 2008 to 178 in 2010, requiring the company to lay off approximately half of its workforce. "The downturn forced us to analyse ourselves," says Mark Paolucci, senior vice-president of sales at Cessna. "It taught us that airplane pricing is something we have to look at very hard - to get the cost down. Costs were driving our pricing."
The M2 can carry seven passengers at a maximum cruise speed of 400kt
Paolucci deems the action particularly prudent "with more offshore companies coming into the fray", including Brazil's Embraer and potentially Japan's Honda, though he says Honda's pricing "shouldn't be terribly different" as that airframer uses domestic suppliers.
Started under then president and chief executive Jack Pelton, Cessna in July finished a restructuring programme that puts "business leaders" in charge of profit and loss for each product line. Cessna's traditional model spread responsibility among several organisations.
Pelton announced his surprise retirement in May, and was replaced by former GE engines global supply chain manager Scott Ernest. Industry observers say Cessna may have been seeking a leader more inwardly focused than Pelton, a champion of wider industry issues.
Paolucci says there are now P&L managers responsible for business jets; single-engined aircraft; service and support; military and defence; and Cessna fractional arm Citationaire. Within the business jets area, there are more P&L managers in charge of each line, including the Mustang, CJ and Sovereign.
A second area of intense analysis was whether the company was building the right products. "Do we need a Cessna 172R and a Cessna 172S?" asks Paolucci. "I contend they are the same aircraft."
For business jets, during Pelton's tenure the company had been quietly working on a new entry-level Citation model, to give Mustang operators what they sought: a faster, larger transition aircraft "with a real lav" offering more privacy. The aircraft was to be a segue to moving up to the CJ2+, next up from the Mustang.
While engineers had originally started with a clean sheet design for the aircraft, the company ultimately decided "we had a basic design already that would give what we were asking for," says Paolucci.
What resulted was a "tweak" to the CJ1 (Model 525), now out of production. "We stayed in the same space and went back to an existing model to make some changes," says Paolucci. "We're happy with the results: It's less expensive than the CJ1+ and will help us in the market."
Cessna revealed the tweaked aircraft on 26 September, in Wichita. Called the M2, it features a 400kt (741km/h) maximum cruise speed and will carry seven passengers, with the addition of a forward side-facing seat and rear belted lavatory. Garmin was chosen for the avionics, a version of the Garmin 3000 integrated avionics packaged as a Cessna Intrinzic flightdeck. The price is $4.2 million, well below the CJ2+, at $7 million. Powered by two Williams International FJ44-1AP-21 turbofan engines, each producing 1,965lb of thrust, the M2 will within 24min climb to 41,000ft (12,497m), where it will have a cruise speed of 385kt. Range is 2,408km (1,300nm). With full fuel of 1,501kg (3,309lb), the M2's payload is 500lb. Maximum take-off weight is 10,700lb. The full-authority digital engine controlled engines will have a 2,000h inspection and 4,000h time between overhaul - the same as the Mustang.
Construction will be all aluminium, with a T-tail and straight wings capped with Cessna's first in-house production winglets, says Michael Pierce, director of product marketing.
Cessna is equipping the new Citation Ten - set for service entry in the third quarter of 2013 - with elliptical winglets from Kansas-based Winglet Technology, while the same winglets are available for retrofit on the Citation X.
Certified for single-pilot operations, the M2 cockpit will feature three Garmin 14.1in LCDs with two Garmin GTC 570 touchscreen controllers interfacing with the flight management system. Pierce says autothrottles are not an option. "Too expensive for this class of aircraft," he says. A head-up display (HUD) is not an option initially, but could be later on. Garmin's synthetic vision (SV) is an option, not standard. "We have enough people that don't ask for [SV] all the time," says Pierce.
Cessna is "still looking into" an automatic descent mode for Intrinzic, but adds there will not be an automatic aircraft attitude recovery mode - a trademark feature of Garmin's lower end avionics suites. Standard equipment will include a Garmin GFC 700 autopilot, TAWS B, TCAS1, XM graphical weather, Garmin's weather radar and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast out. Along with synthetic vision, options include a cockpit voice recorder and cabin broadband.
Pierce says the customer will have selections for the interior, "styling completely different than anything else we've ever done", including on-purpose cavities for personal electronics like mobile phones. A cabin management system (CMS) by Texas-based Heads Up Technologies - the Citation Ten's CMS provider - will be optional.
Cessna expects to power on the first prototype in December, with first flight following in the first quarter of 2012. Certification testing - and production flow - are expected to start in the third quarter of 2012. Pierce says the production line will be in either Wichita or Cessna's Independence, Kansas, facility. Cessna is slating third quarter 2013 for both the M2's entry into service and the Citation Ten.
On the new CJ4 light jet programme that entered service last year, Paolucci says there has been "improved profit margin" this year. Parent company Textron in April complained of higher than expected initial production costs.
A single-engined prop Cessna flew for a period as a possible new product - to span the gap between the Corvalis piston singles and the Mustang - seems to be on hold. "We never had a go on the project," says Paolucci. "It never got to gate three - the 'okay let's proceed' phase."
Troubles with humidity at a factory in Chihuahua, Mexico, causing debonding of a Corvalis TT wing in flight test, have been fixed. On 22 September the FAA proposed a $2.4 million fine on Cessna for not following an FAA-approved quality control system there. A test pilot, performing a production audit test of the aircraft in Kansas in December 2010, had 7ft (2.14m) of wing separate from a forward spar in flight, but was not injured after an emergency landing.
The agency then grounded 13 specific Corvalis aircraft that used wings and parts made in Chihuahua. Investigators determined that "excessive humidity" in the factory had prevented the bonded materials from curing properly.
Paolucci identifies "the first half of next year" as the timeframe for delivery of the first new Corvalis TTX aircraft, adding that the company decided to discontinue the TT line and begin again with the new TTX - which features an Intrinzic-integrated cockpit based on a Garmin G2000 avionics package.
"We're still holding to that plan," he says. "We're making sure the climate is appropriate [in Chihuahua]".