Cessna, Beechcraft Show Unified Front at EBACE

** Textron Aviation**

Walter Beech and Clyde Cessna may be rolling in their graves as the brands under the Textron Aviation umbrella — Cessna Aircraft, Beechcraft and Hawker — for the first time presented a unified front, exhibiting together at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva, Switzerland. It's only been about two months since the iconic companies were brought together, yet somehow, like the red, white and blue colors that mark their logos, they appear to have blended surprisingly smoothly.

At the Textron Aviation static display outside Geneva's Palexpo convention center, Beechcraft's King Airs and Cessna's Citation jets and single-engine Caravan are lined up side by side, and a table at the booth inside the main exhibit area shows a crowd of models of the diverse family. Being a bizav show, the piston products are excluded from the display. The piston family is, however, not being eliminated.

With the merger, the teams from many departments are being merged and some employees from each of the formerly separated companies are moving from what is now referred to as the west and east campus rather than the Beech and Cessna facilities. However, CEO Scott Ernest said he believes that, for now at least, the brands need to be separated. "We wanted to create an environment that kept that recognition for our customer base," he said. New products will likely also be branded under the 80-plus-year-old names.

Textron Aviation is grouping their teams into piston, turboprops and jets. At this point there are no plans to make any changes to the Beechcraft or Cessna product offerings, which Ernest said are "very complementary"; but the company continues to look at customer demands to fill potential voids. When asked whether Textron Aviation had any plans to revisit the idea of adding to the top end of its product line, above where the Citation Columbus would have been, Ernest said: "never say never."

At this time, Textron Aviation has no plans to bring the Hawker lines back into production, but there are benefits to including the brand within Textron. With about 2,500 Hawker jets still flying, the aftermarket and service business present a potentially significant source of revenue. Additionally, the ability of Textron Aviation to take in Hawker jets in trade from new Citation customers eliminates barriers to some sales.

"We can make [trade-in transactions] very seamless to them," Ernest said. Benefits also are becoming evident for each of the former companies. For example, Ernest said Beechcraft's composite facility is outstanding and allows the company to manufacture some parts for its Cessna products in house that Cessna previously outsourced.

With more than 6,500 Citations, more than 7,000 King Airs and more than 2,500 Hawkers, the service business is a massive component of Textron Aviation. The company's senior vice president of customer service, Brad Thress, said there are best practices that can be shared between the combined brands to optimize the service experience.

"Our goal in all of this is to increase the convenience to the combined customer base," said Thress. The first goal is to be able to service all models at all company owned service locations, an ambitious target Ernest hopes to reach by the end of the year.

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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