To lose one flagship aircraft programme may be regarded as misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. It may be unfair to aim that paraphrasing of Oscar Wilde at Textron Aviation which has suspended the large-cabin Citation Hemisphere 10 years after ending its last attempt to break into unfamiliar territory, with the Columbus.
After all, the circumstances are very different. The super-midsize Columbus was one of many programmes axed by airframers facing a liquidity crisis or deserting customers as financial markets collapsed in 2009.
By contrast, the prospects for the 4,500nm (8,330km)-range Hemisphere were good. Textron had pitched its largest type at a segment where demand remains robust and competitors few. Nine months ago, the programme received a boost with an 150-aircraft launch order from NetJets.
However, cynics may be tempted to conclude that a failure by engine supplier Safran to come up with a fix for the Silvercrest gave Textron a convenient excuse to ditch the programme at minimal cost, while pushing blame on its French supplier. This at a time when many believe the market has peaked and the airframer must focus scarce resources on delivering the tardy Longitude.
That would be unfair. While Dassault cancelled the 5X – the Silvercrest’s only other platform – in 2017, launching the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW800 family-powered 6X in its place, Textron has been most patient with Safran, despite umpteen delays.
Textron admits that, without the only clean-sheet turbofan in the 9,000-12,000lb (40-53kN)-thrust category, the Hemisphere loses its competitive edge. Replacing the Silvercrest with a heavier engine or one that would struggle to deliver the necessary thrust has never been an option.
Textron’s misfortune this time around is simply that Safran has been unable to deliver on its ambitious promise.
Source: Flight International