SINGAPORE: Textron Aviation shows four aircraft at its first Singapore air show

Almost two years after the merger of two of the most famous brands in general aviation, Textron Aviation is making its first appearance at the Singapore air show. The company has five aircraft on display, from its high-performance Cessna TTx piston single to its Citation CJ4 business jet.

Textron Aviation came into being when its US parent finalised the acquisition of Beechcraft as well as the out-of-production Hawker business jet brand in March 2014, amalgamating it with the Cessna brand Textron already owned. Also on the static are two versions of its venerable and top-selling Beechcraft King Air twin turboprop, the C90G and 350i, and Cessna Grand Caravan Ex single-engine utility.

The merged company enjoys a dominant position in many sectors in Asia, says Chris Bogaars, vice president for international sales for Asia-Pacific. “The Citation fleet is the most successful in this region. We have everything from Mustangs in flight training in Australia to VIP Citation X+s in Singapore,” he says.

Textron delivered 20 turboprops in the region last year and expects “to do even better this year”, says Bogaars. “Turboprops are used extensively around the region thanks to the ability of the King Air and Caravan to take off from and land on unpaved runways common throughout the region. They are in use as trainers and medevac, but also as transport for engineers and managers in mining and palm oil plantations. There is also a large fleet used for transportation between villages in the bush.”

With demand for airline pilots increasing in Asia, training has been a lucrative sector for Textron. “The [Cessna] 172 Skyhawk is the most popular flight training platform. We just about own the flight training business here,” he adds.

A big focus for Textron at the show will be on aftersales – it will be making announcements on new service partnerships. The company has been focusing on bringing together its maintenance, repair and overhaul offering across the three brands. “We have reached out to Hawker owners to offer them support,” says Bogaars. “We have partners throughout the region, including with [Australian MRO] Hawker Pacific, so we have service capability in virtually every capital.”

China has been a harder nut to crack thanks to a regulatory system that makes it difficult for general aviation and the preference for the country’s elite for larger-cabin aircraft than the traditional Citation range. Bogaars believes Cessna’s move into bigger jets with the Latitude – as well as the bigger, in-development Longitude and Hemisphere – will help address this market.

“Our direction is towards larger-cabin aircraft, an area where our competitors Dassault, Gulfstream and Bombardier have found there is a market,” he says. “However, we have the advantage that we will be at a lower price point than most of our competitors, and so we are more cost-effective for those looking to move up into larger jets.”

One new aircraft being pitched at the Asian market that you will not see on the static is the Scorpion light attack/surveillance aircraft, although Textron is promising to take the first production version to the UK’s Royal International Air Tattoo and Farnborough show in July.

“The aircraft is very applicable to the maritime patrol environment in Asia-Pacific,” says Russ Bartlett, president of Beechcraft Defense. “The magic of the Scorpion is that you can put a variety of sensors or equipment in its payload bay. You can do a lot of things very affordably.”

He says the Scorpion has been “designed as an ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] aircraft first, and strike aircraft second” and is “positioned at a price point and cost per flight hour that just isn’t catered for, significantly under single-engine fighter jets”.

Meanwhile, the company’s other military product, the T-6 trainer, also has potential in the Asia-Pacific market, says Bartlett. The three iterations of the aircraft are in service with nine air forces, although the USA accounts for more than three quarters of the fleet. Production has been slowing but a recent order from the UK for 10 T-6Cs has extended deliveries beyond 2017. The final example of 11 T-6s has also been handed over to New Zealand, which is set to declare operational readiness. “We’ve delivered our 900th T-6 and we’re marching onto the 1,000th,” he says.

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