Cessna Weighs the Good and the Bad

With typical Midwest pragmatism, Cessna addressed the clear problems it faces while also outlining its reasons for optimism. At his press conference during the NBAA convention, Cessna Chairman, President and CEO Jack Pelton acknowledged the grim reality of layoffs. The work force at Cessna has contracted to 10,000 employees from 18,000 at this time last year. Deliveries of Citations in 2008 topped at 467, while this year is expected to see around 275 - even less for next year. Pelton addressed the media problem by understating, "Perception issues still influence buying decisions." He concluded the bad news with the view that "the supply chain [in general aviation] is damaged. And that leads to a loss of talent in the industry as people who leave do not return." But then Pelton turned positive, noting the following good news: the recession is over [on Monday, the day of his press conference the Dow closed at 10,092], daily usage of aircraft has stopped declining and stabilized, the inventory of used aircraft is declining, order cancelations are declining, "the phones have started ringing" and people have started buying single-engine piston airplanes again, the negative rhetoric is subsiding [he gave credit to NBAA and its "No Plane, No Gain" campaign] and finally, the airlines continue to contract their service. In further good news from Cessna, the Citation CJ4 is closing in on certification. Performance figures have improved, with the promised speed of 435 knots now increased to 452 knots; promised range of 1,825 nautical miles now up to 1,963 nautical miles; and direct climb to 43,000 feet has been improved to 45,000 feet. Also, Cessna expects to deliver its 250th Citation Mustang by the end of this year. On the customer service front, Cessna has announced its ServiceDirect program, in which company technicians will drive or fly to the customer's home base to address maintenance issues, rather than requiring the customer to fly to a Citation Service Center.