Just before the new year, Cessna delivered the first Model 162 SkyCatcher to Rose Pelton, the wife of Cessna President and CEO Jack Pelton. Rose planned to use her new 162 to — what else? — learn to fly.
The delivery took place across the field from Cessna at Yingling Aircraft, where the first SkyCatchers will be assembled after coming in from the factory in China.
After years of building conventionally certificated airplanes, Cessna's successful introduction of the light-sport aircraft SkyCatcher represents an important new line of business for the Wichita, Kansas, manufacturer, which has over the years built more training airplanes than any other company.
It also represents an important milestone in a trend in flight training, and with its investment Cessna has established itself as the leader in that category. Students learning to fly in the SkyCatcher will be able to do so for a fraction of the cost of learning to fly in a new Skyhawk. Cessna has also introduced an interactive, computer-based pilot training system — with special modules just for the SkyCatcher — that focuses on scenario-based training and pilot decision-making.
As an LSA, the SkyCatcher is restricted to a maximum weight of 1,320 pounds and a top speed of 120 knots. Perhaps more important, as an LSA, the 162 is certified differently from other light airplanes, through a set of industry standards not directly overseen by the FAA. Still, Cessna's flight test program was without a doubt the most extensive ever for a light-sport aircraft. The LSA certification standards allow Cessna to build the airplane a great deal more cost-effectively than an identical Part 23 version and to equip it with more sophisticated electronics.
The SkyCatcher, which is approved and equipped for day and night VFR, costs $110,000 well-equipped. It is powered by a 100 hp Continental O-200D piston engine with a fixed-pitch propeller. Avionics are the remarkably light and capable Garmin G300 suite. More than 1,000 SkyCatchers are on order.
For more information, visit cessna.com.