By Karen Di Piazza
On Nov. 22, the Federal Aviation Administration awarded Cessna Aircraft Company a production certificate for its Citation Mustang, at the aircraft’s assembly line in Independence, Kan. Also on that date, the Mustang Management Group, located in Fresno, Calif., took delivery of Cessna’s first Mustang, a six-place, turbofan very light jet.
Jack Pelton, Cessna chairman, president and CEO, is quick to credit his team when the company achieves its goals. He’s worked from the ground floor up, so he knows what it takes to build a plane.
“Everyone at Cessna is ecstatic to have these two significant milestones occur in one day,” he said. “The result of this work is the FAA’s validation that our processes, our assembly methods and our product quality meet their standards for serial production.”
Kent Scott, president of MMG, Scott Aircraft Inc. and Scott Aviation, said with Cessna’s established history for designing, certifying and delivering aircraft into the marketplace, the Mustang “is an iteration of the most successful line of business jets in the world.”
“The Mustang has the sales and support network to stand behind it,” he declared.
Scott Aviation, an authorized Cessna Pilot Center flight school, with fixed base operations at Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FAT) and Fresno Chandler Executive Airport (FCH), agreed to lease its Mustang back to Cessna for use as a demo aircraft for 10 months. After that period, Scott Aviation will use the Mustang for flight training.
“Cessna has been working with the FAA for months in obtaining its production certificate for the Mustang,” Pelton said.
Headquartered in Wichita, Kan., Cessna has more than seven decades of expertise developing and building aircraft. Pelton said the company’s advanced production and tooling systems and its ability to ramp-up production are a few of the reasons for the company’s success.
“We have a strong foundation,” he said.
Pelton said the company’s backlog is now nearing $6.8 billion.
“We expect to deliver 300 jets in 2006; our 2007 goal is 370, which will include 40 Citation Mustangs,” he said. “Even at this higher production level, at the end of the second quarter in 2006, we were about 90 percent sold out, leaving only 35 available slots for 2007.”
Doug Oliver, Cessna’s director of corporate communications, confirmed that 30 Mustangs are currently in various stages of production.
“We have more than 250 orders for the Mustang, which includes orders from October’s National Business Aviation Association convention,” he said. Cessna expects production to increase through 2009.
Following the NBAA convention, Textron Inc., Cessna’s parent company, reported that its airframer pulled in 115 jet orders worth more than $1 billion. Combined with pre-show agreements, the company has booked more than 160 orders for the fourth quarter.
In the coming months, Oliver said another Mustang will be delivered and put into regular service.
“The MMG aircraft is fully loaded, which is why we’re excited to lease it as a demo,” he said. “It has leather seats, XM satellite weather in the cockpit, plus XM radio in the cabin; passengers can plug in and listen to music they enjoy. The Mustang is also certified for flight into known icing.”
The Mustang has a top speed of 340 ktas (nearly 400 mph), a 1,150-nm range and a maximum flight ceiling of 41,000 feet.
Although news about Cessna’s Mustang has reached around the world, Oliver said that Cessna hasn’t yet invested a lot of effort in a formal marketing campaign.
“It’s been mostly word of mouth,” he said. “We’re just beginning ramp-up; we have a lot going on at Cessna.”
On Sept. 8, Cessna became the world’s first aircraft manufacturer to obtain full type certification for its VLJ from the FAA. When asked if Cessna deliberately raced against Eclipse Aviation to deliver the first VLJ, Oliver laughed, saying that was never the company’s goal.
“We’ve never been in a race against any aircraft manufacturer to certify or deliver first; in the Mustang’s case, Cessna had a clear plan and kept its promises,” he said.
Aside from Cessna’s recent victory on first delivery of a VLJ, the company as a whole continues to expand its Citation line of jets. Based on unit sales, Cessna is the world’s largest manufacturer of general aviation airplanes. Because of Cessna’s brand recognition, Broad Air Conditioning, a Chinese industrial company, chose to buy a Cessna Citation. The first company in China to own a business jet, Broad Air Conditioning recently added a second Citation to its fleet.
The world’s demand continues to grow for private jet transportation. Cessna recently placed a regional manager in Dubai, Saudi Arabia, as the modern desert oasis is fast becoming a choice destination. And as the European market continues to lift flight restrictions for private jet travel, Cessna’s presence in the region is experiencing tremendous growth.
“As all businesses work to do more with time and resources, shareholders and CFOs are rightly regarding business jets as valuable tools that enhance productivity and efficiency,” Pelton said. “General aviation is a catalyst that helps strengthen the competitive position of business in our global economy.”
Cessna plans to produce jets that will serve each niche of the GA market in every corner of the world, as the company has the ability to support its aircraft with sales, parts and service centers, which start-up companies can’t readily provide.
The company recently introduced its Citation CJ4, a larger, longer-range version of its popular CJ line, and the Citation XLS+, which will have the latest technologies and amenities. Cessna has booked 101 CJ4 orders; 25 entered backlog in the third quarter. Cessna fully expects these jets will be used in the European marketplace.
Pelton says a larger-cabin, 11-place business jet design is still in its infancy. He added that the seat configuration could change.
“We’re actively seeking customer feedback on how to shape this design, to assess its overall attractiveness and feasibility,” he said. “With the largest fleet of business jets and the most extensive support network worldwide, this is a logical extension to our product line.”
For more information, visit [http://www.cessna.com].