Cessna quietly rolled out the first Citation Latitude jet from the company’s Wichita factory on 20 January and ran initial taxi and installed engine tests.
A picture of the unpainted aircraft undergoing testing first appeared on the aviation subpage of the Reddit online community site.
Cessna confirmed to Flightglobal that the picture posted on Reddit showed the first Latitude flight test aircraft equipped with Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306D turbofan engines.
Cessna also provided an additional picture and video of the event.
The Latitude programme is scheduled to enter flight-testing early this year and achieve airworthiness certification by the end of the year.
Scott Donnelly, chief executive of Cessna parent Textron, re-affirmed the Latitude’s schedule remains on track in a teleconference today with analysts, while discussing the company’s fourth quarter and 2013 earnings.
“We certainly expect to have the Latitude in the market for a full year of sales in 2015,” Donnelly says.
The Latitude poses some financial challenges for Cessna this year. The delayed certification of the Cessna M2, New Sovereign and new Citation X meant Cessna’s working capital budget over-spent by “a couple hundred million dollars” in 2013, Donnelly says.
Cessna had hoped to recover on working capital as the M2 and New Sovereign achieved certification in the fourth quarter and the Citation X is on track to enter service soon, Donnelly says.
However, Cessna will be ramping up production of the nine-seat Latitude jet during the second half of the year, although deliveries can not begin until the flight testing programme is completed.
“So we’ll be building out those aircraft, but we won't be able to sell those aircraft [or] deliver those aircraft until that certification happens,” he says.
Cessna's sales outlook in 2014 is positive, but only because of the introduction of three business jets between late last year and early this year, Donnelly says. Overall demand is expected to remain “flatish” this year compared to 2013, he says.
CORRECTION: Article updated to correct the engine supplier for the Cessna Latitude.