Silvercrest impact on Hemisphere jet premature: Textron CEO

Textron chief executive Scott Donnelly says it is “premature” to know how to respond to the new problem with Safran's Silvercrest engine which has been selected to power the Cessna Citation Hemisphere to a first flight milestone within two years.

“We don’t know enough yet,” Donnelly told analysts on 19 October during a third-quarter earnings call.

Textron Aviation became aware of the new problem with the Silvercrest engine “kind of with everybody else” at the NBAA convention on 9 October, Donnelly says.

The description of the problem by Safran at NBAA “certainly sounds like a [high-pressure compressor] issue”, he adds.

But Textron Aviation is not yet making any decisions about the impact on the Hemisphere programme until the problem is better understood by Safran.

“We need to give their engineering team time to figure out what the range of options is,” Donnelly adds. “Based on where the Silvercrest is, obviously we can regulate what we do in terms of the [Hemisphere] programme spend based on that.”

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Donnelly’s comments come eight days after another Textron Aviation executive offered Safran a vote of confidence, minutes after the new problem was revealed publicly at NBAA.

Textron Aviation senior vice-president of engineering Brad Thress appeared to dismiss any concerns about the impact of the problem on its flagship large-cabin business jet. "A lot of that should be well behind them before we get to that point of our programme,” Thress said.

Only minutes earlier, Safran had acknowledged discovering a new problem with the 12,000lb-thrust-class Silvercrest in ground tests and on the company’s flying testbed. During flights at low speed or high altitude, the engine failed to accelerate and decelerate in the way the designers expected, Safran said.

The disclosure drew an alarmed response from another Silvercrest customer. Dassault has already delayed entry-into-service of the Falcon 5X by two years to 2020 to solve another problem with the engine. Dassault chief executive Eric Trappier says the company is considering all options as Safran attempts to understand the new problem with the engine.