Sure enough, by several measures and based on multiple conversations, 2011 is shaping up to be a better year than 2010. Of course, that’s not saying much as all of aviation worldwide was slow last year and in 2009. When you’re near the bottom of the well, everything starts looking up. *** With those thoughts in mind, we present the newest market share report, this one through the third quarter of 2011. In recent years we’ve had folks tell us we ought to show charts of this year’s or this quarter’s performance. But most readers want to know the “installed base,” to borrow a phrase from the trend-setting tech industry. When people talk about Windows versus Apple market share or iOS versus Android, they generally mean how many of all buyers have those systems. *** Nonetheless, we recognize pilots are hungry for more recent info. So for several years, we have discussed near-term performance in the text of our articles even while we present a graphic showing FAA N-number registrations since the beginning.
Cessna (Shenyang) Aircraft Skycatcher
Phone: (800) 423-7762Witchita, KS 67215 - USA
|Empty weight||830 pounds1|
|Gross weight||1,320 pounds|
|Wingspan||30 feet 5 inches|
|Wing area||120 square feet|
|Wing loading||11.0 pounds per square foot|
|Useful Load||490 pounds2|
|Length||22 feet 1 inch|
|Payload (with full fuel)||342 pounds|
|Cabin Interior||43.6 inches|
|Height||7 feet 4 inches|
|Baggage area||aft of seats 50 pounds|
|Notes:||1 Typically equipped empty weight|
2 As flown useful load was 460 pounds
|Standard engine||Continental O-200D|
|Prop Diameter||2-blade metal1|
|Power loading||13.2 pounds per hp|
|Max Speed||118 kts/136 mph|
|Cruise speed||109 kts/125 mph|
|Stall Speed (Flaps)||37 kts/43 mph|
|Never exceed speed||148 kts/170 mph|
|Rate of climb at gross||880 fpm|
|Takeoff distance at gross||640 feet|
|Landing distance at gross||671 feet|
|Range (powered)||360 nautical miles / 3.5 hrs.|
|Fuel Consumption||about 6.0 gph|
|Notes:||1 Composite prop in development|
|Standard Features||100-hp Continental O-200D with electric starting; 2-blade metal prop; Garmin G300 digital instrument; Garmin SL40 comm radio; Garmin GTX327 Mode C transponder; 407 Mhz ELT; electric pitch trim; manual flaps; dual controls; dual hydraulic toe brakes; castoring nosewheel; shoulder belts; overhead panel lighting; painted interior.|
|Options||Second G300 multi-function display; XM weather; PS intercom; TruTrak autopilot; BRS ballistic parachute; wheel fairings; fuel primer; exterior striping options; EGT; external power receptacle; cold weather kit; sun visors; fire extinguisher.|
|Construction||All-metal semi-monocoque airframe including aluminum ailerons, tailplane surfaces, and flaps; fiberglass cowl, wheel fairing, and other items. Fabricated in China to U.S. design; distributed in the USA through established Cessna outlets.|
Cosmetic appearance, structural integrity, achievement of design goals, effectiveness of aerodynamics, ergonomics.
Pros - Built by a company with 80+ years experience. The Skycatcher was tested as much or more than any LSA on the market. All-metal design with Continental engine that can be maintained almost anywhere in the world. New improvements like roomsaving joystick and wing struts aft of doors.
Cons - Interior is plain compared to other highend LSA with control cables, wires, and plumbing visible. Useful load is less than many other LSA. No overhead skylight (as is common on LSA).
Subsystems available to pilot such as: Flaps; Fuel sources; Electric start; In-air restart; Brakes; Engine controls; Navigations; Radio; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Manual flaps deploy to 10-25-40°; work very effectively. Electric trim. Simple action fuel selector control. Electric start, comm radio, transponder, ELT and more are standard equipment. G300 system is wonderfully informative and also standard (single screen).
Cons - Raising the flap handle to the 40° position takes additional arm strength and gets slightly in the way of throttle operation. Fuel primer is optional. No aileron or rudder trim offered.
Instrumentation; Ergonomics of controls; Creature comforts; (items covered may be optional).
Pros - Entry and exit are eased by gull-wing doors and wing struts aft of the doors. Adjustable rudder pedals via a large knob that can be operated in flight. Seats tilt to allow access to voluminous baggage area. Good visibility in all directions except overhead.
Cons - Seats have a rather short backrest and don't adjust except to tilt forward. Interior is wider than a Cessna 172, but several inches narrower than other LSA. No skylight to aid visibility in the pattern or during turns.
Taxi visibility; Steering; Turn radius; Shock absorption; Stance/Stability; Braking.
Pros - Toe brakes are standard on both sides of the Skycatcher; brakes adquately powerful and parking brake holds during engine runup. Steering arrangement allows very tight ramp maneuvering (once technique is acquired). Generous ground clearance.
Cons - Steering by toe brakes and castoring nosewheel is less precise than direct linkage (though you acquire the knack soon enough). Limited overhead visibility for pretakeoff traffic monitoring.
Qualities; Efficiency; Ease; Comparative values.
Pros - First two notches of flaps are easily deployed and quite effective. Slips to landings worked well even with rudder pedal fully pressed. Roll-out for takeoff or landing is reasonably short. Climb is vigorous. Approach visibility is broad. Strong glide at about 11:1.
Cons - You can flare deeply enough to touch and possibly damage the ventral fin; attitude landing techique overcomes this, but must be learned. Pulling on full flaps (40°) takes arm power. No experience gained on turf runways.
Quality and quantity for: Coordination; Authority; Pressures; Response; and Coupling.
Pros - Unique joystick is highly workable and certainly frees up room under the panel; I needed little adjustment time, though potential buyers will need to assess their own attitude about the stick/yoke arrangement. Handling was excellent and light without sudden results. Excellent response even near stall speeds.
Cons - Ailerons were a little lighter than the rudder; you must press pedals harder (though the response was good). Control range is somewhat limited due to spin requirements (though I never found any lack of full control authority from these restrictions).
Climb; Glide; Sink; Cruise/stall/max speeds; Endurance; Range; Maneuverability.
Pros - High cruise was swift. Climb was strong. Ground roll was short on and off the surface. Speed range is wide: 37-knot stall to 118-knot high-power cruise. Strong glide and modest sink rate. Continental engine power setting ranges are familiar to any GA-trained pilot.
Cons - Range is less than some similar-class LSA owing to a stated higher fuel burn than would be the case with the similarly powered 100-hp Rotax 912S. Less fuel could be carried to enhance payload, but this further limits range.
Stall recovery and characteristics; Dampening; Spiral stability; Adverse yaw qualities.
Pros - Stalls in all regimes revealed excellent characteristics. Clearly, from all Cessna's testing, spin recovery should proceed normally. Even at stall speed, control response was excellent. Pitch response to power changes was normal.
Cons - The effort to test so thoroughly for spins resulted in added structure that came at the expense of useful load. Control ranges were restricted (though I discovered no resultant loss of control authority). Adding a parachute system is limited by payload.
Addresses the questions: "Will a buyer get what he/she expects to buy, and did the designer/builder achieve the chosen goal?"
Pros - Number one producer of aircraft in the world. Dealer network and service stations are available around the world; numerous flight school locations. Extremely strong brand should result in good resale value and resaleability. Development testing should impress nearly any buyer.
Cons - Though not expensive compared to many LSA, the Skycatcher's $112,500 price tag is still well beyond many budgets. Built in China, which for some is a negative. While a modern design in many ways, some other LSA designs may appear more contemporary. Shipments just beginning (summer 2010); long order backlog could delay delivery.
Honestly, I never thought I’d see this day arrive. As I started work on a Cessna aircraft review for the pages of Light Sport and Ultralight Flying magazine, I thought, We’ve come a long way. When this publication was started 35 years ago, it was titled Glider Rider and it featured hang gliders. Coverage then expanded to include powered ultralights, and now light-sport aircraft (LSA) are included in the mix. This month I’ve written a pilot report on Cessna Aircraft’s Skycatcher LSA, the first Cessna in modern memory not built to FAR Part 23 standards, that is, not type-certified by the U.S. government. Some may say ultralights “grew up” to become light-sports. But I say that Cessna has moved (returned?) to very light aircraft designs. I consider their arrival significant. It isn’t simply that you can buy a brand-new Cessna for $112,500 (more on the price later). The more important point to Light Sport and Ultralight Flying readers is that the Skycatcher flies similarly to what light aircraft enthusiasts fly.
Molly McMillin of the Wichita Eagle reports today that Cessna is speeding up its deliveries of the C-162 throughout 2010, after delays were announced early in the year. The announcement was made at the Aero Expo in Germany today. *** McMillin also writes that Cessna veep John Doman believes the piston-powered aircraft market may be stabilizing and could turn around soon to a growth profile, perhaps as early as mid-2011. *** In a related story, Shenyang Aircraft of China, the state-owned manufacturer of the Skycatcher airframe for Cessna, plans to build a new factory to expand its production volume. *** An airport will also be built at the site — but original plans for a mid-2010 opening have been delayed to 2011. *** Future Skycatchers will still be outfitted and test-flown in Wichita. *** UPDATE on Michael Combs “Flight for the Human Spirit” odyssey: he’s off and flying! The nasty Salina, KS weather that kept him on the ground for 3 days broke today and he promptly launched.
Everyone interested in Light-Sport Aircraft is aware of Cessna’s loss of prototype #1 when it entered an “unrecoverable spin.” After Cirrus Design announced a slowdown in the development of their SRS, people have been wondering if Cessna would alter their plans for Skycatcher. Short answer: No. All is proceeding according to schedule. *** At AOPA Expo 2008, the Wichita giant reported that the now-lost Skycatcher prototype accumulated 220 hours in flight testing. Cessna will enlist their first production model to complete these primary evaluations. A third Skycatcher airframe will undergo various static tests. *** The company remains dedicated to ASTM standards. However, as general aviation’s leading producer, Cessna prefers to go beyond industry consensus standards so they also plan ground vibration tests (which can check for flutter) and airframe fatigue testing. Both employ elaborate test equipment to evaluate an airframe’s integrity and response to repeated in-flight loads.
Through the years of design development, few expected Cessna would delay their release of the Skycatcher. Any naysayers were wrong. *** At several meetings with Cessna leaders at Oshkosh 2009, I consistently heard that a small number of Skycatchers would be built in 2009, which means the big producer is right on schedule. Even with the global aviation turmoil that also engulfed the company (employment is off more than 50% at present), Cessna is staying the course with their LSA entry. *** Notably, Skycatcher serial number one will go to Rose Pelton, the charming wife of Cessna President, CEO, and Chairman, Jack Pelton. As LAMA founder Larry Burke and I visited with Rose during AirVenture, she expressed great enthusiasm about pursuing her Sport Pilot certificate once the new bird arrives. *** Top management persons such as Piston Aircraft VP, John Doman, and Communications VP, Bob Stangerone, have recently had a chance to fly the new Light-Sport Aircraft from Cessna.
It begins! The long awaited arrival of Cessna into the ranks of Special Light-Sport Aircraft has begun, with the first Shenyang-produced Skycatcher arriving in Wichita. The company reports taking more than 1,000 orders. At Oshkosh 2009, company officials said production would commence as originally planned in 2009 but that 2010 will be the year of substantial deliveries from their Chinese contract manufacturer. Soon, we’ll begin to see registered Skycatchers show up on our market share reports. *** Magazine reporters started to gain access for evaluation flights, though the first of those occurred on a slightly overweight prototype. Initial reports were positive, mirroring comments from Cessna managers who have gotten to fly the prototypes. Performance and payload are factors sure to be gauged by additional flight reviewers as production versions become available. So far, flights have occurred on the #2 prototype that was rebuilt after an incident following spin tests; that aircraft landed under parachute canopy and did not sustain major damage.
In a major ceremony the day before AirVenture Oshkosh opened, Cessna debuted a “full-scale mock-up” of the Skycatcher. And indeed it showed some fresh ideas. But first, the answers to common questions. *** Bowing to the established A&P community the Wichita giant selected a Contintental O-200 100-hp engine. Later they hope the engine will trim 25-30 pounds, an important goal as empty weight came in at 830 pounds. Price was set at $109,500 though Skycatcher comes equipped with a slim, vertically-oriented Garmin G300 PFD/MFD (a second screen is optional); offered exlusively by Cessna. Cabin width is an adequate 44.25 inches, some five inches wider than a C-150 (though less generous than many LSA). *** Innovations include an excellent joystick that routes forward so the floor is unobstructed for entry. Rudder pedals, not seats, adjust (see big black knob at lower left). The flap handle is recessed in a center console. Cessna says the yet-to-fly Skycatcher will cruise up to 118 knots for 470 nm on 24 gallons of fuel.
Cessna reported 920 orders for Skycatcher in the 10 weeks between EAA’s AirVenture and AOPA’s Expo. Curiously, FAA data for SLSA registered through September 2007 showed a slip in the pattern of steady monthly growth. Does it sound logical that Cessna’s $4.6 million of orders — the retail price value of 40 or 45 SLSA — account for this slump? Although refundable, those orders should eventually translate to more than $100 million worth of Skycatcher sales. Cessna said it expects to produce 700 a year at full production. *** Let’s compare that with the balance-of-the-industry performance. Three quarters of the way through 2007, the entire LSA industry has registered 609 airplanes. On an annualized basis this yields 812 units. So, if industry players other than Cessna can double sales in two years (a reasonably conservative estimate), Cessna would represent 30% of the total when they reach full production.
It’s rare for the Wall Street Journal to print a single word about Light-Sport Aircraft, but today’s edition has the Skycatcher at the top of the front page. Confirming earlier speculations, the Wichita airplane company has chosen to build its LSA in China. The difference from other ventures (Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier) is that Cessna will have Shenyang Aircraft build the entire airplane. Continental engines and Garmin avionics will be shipped to China *** Cessna says they can’t afford to build the Skycatcher in the U.S., quoting the CEO of Textron (Cessna’s parent) as saying Skycatcher would cost $71,000 more if built in America. Cessna is also hoping to establish a foothold in a country where private aviation is currently tiny (12,840 civilian pilots) but where the potential is large. *** Some are skeptical. State-owned companies in China are notorious for not protecting intellectual property. And, according to the president of Shenyang, his company will be the “sole source supplier of Skycatcher.” Many companies avoid single sources because it limits their options.
Lots of other aviation news organizations embraced multimedia before ByDanJohnson.com did. We figured online was already quite lively with hyperlinks and true interactivity as represented by our exclusive PlaneFinder 2.0 feature. *** About a year ago, of UltralightNews approached me with an idea to do brief reviews of LSA. I accepted his invitation and today we are well on our way to having a 4-8 minute video mini-review for each of the 105 SLSA on the market. Other professional outlets like AvWeb, ANN, AOPA, and EAA offer multimedia topics all over the aviation map, but ByDanJohnson.com maintains a tight focus on all manner of light aircraft flown by Sport Pilots. *** With that manifesto in mind, we observe for you that we just posted new reviews on our LSA Videos page and we invite you to watch these… for free and without even having to register.
Most producers in the Light-Sport Aircraft sector welcomed the LSA market entry announced by Cessna and Cirrus at Oshkosh 2007. July of last year looks like the “good old days,” as aviation from LSA to VLJs — essentially all of GA — is roiled by global economic uncertainty. *** Compounding the challenges, Cessna had an “unrecoverable” spin incident with their Skycatcher 162. Even BRS got drawn in with a rocket-deployed parachute that for reasons yet unknown didn’t save the airframe. Both companies are sure to work out these issues; test failures are an accepted part of aircraft development. *** Cirrus stepped down to a 3-day workweek (AvWeb article) to cope with slowing sales. Like Cessna, Cirrus is managing multiple developments. Their jet project consumes plenty of resources so when watching costs, it’s little surprise that the Duluth company might put their SRS Light-Sport project on the back burner.
Details continue to emerge regarding Cessna’s plan to have the Skycatcher built in China. After fabrication, assembly, and flight test north of Beijing, Skycatchers will be partly disassembled and packed in containers for ocean shipment to the USA. Cessna CEO Jack Pelton indicated that at least three of Cessna’s authorized service centers, including one in Wichita, will reassemble their LSA in the U.S. for delivery to retail customers through Cessna dealers. *** In addition to reducing Skycatcher production costs, Pelton was reported saying the Chinese agreement is advantageous for Cessna because, “we didn’t want to lose focus” on the more profitable business jet market segment while ramping up the infrastructure necessary to build the LSA. *** Shenyang Aircraft will start work on tooling for the Skycatcher in 2008 and could start initial manufacturing operations late next year or early in 2009. Pelton believes Shenyang will have 400-500 employees working on Skycatcher when it reaches full production, forecast at 700 Skycatchers per year.
In the month of July 2007 the LSA industry registered 71 more aircraft bringing the total to 904 fixed wing airplanes. That represents a spurt of 11% in one month and an even 60% growth in registered LSA since January 1st 2007. *** In all categories, Americans are flying 1,134 SLSA. Weight Shift aircraft registered an additional 27 aircraft, powered parachutes added 6 and LSA gliders achieved their first registration. *** The leading companies (see chart) were barely changed with the top five holding nearly identical market share from last month. CubCrafters inched up a notch and Czech Aircraft Works narrowly passed Remos. Further down the market share list, positions still saw little fluctuation. This equilibrium will surely be disturbed with the entry of Cirrus (by August 2008, they say) and Cessna* (in the second half of 2009) but for 27 months, customers have generally kept their brand loyalties. *Cessna reported more than 550 sales in the week of AirVenture Oshkosh.
Few will be surprised at this point, but today Cessna made their official announcement that they will proceed with their LSA program. Though we’ve already seen a proof-of-concept aircraft, the Wichita company says they will unveil a full-scale mockup and program details at Oshkosh in less than two weeks. “After conducting extensive market research, it is clear to us there is a great need for this aircraft as we strive to drive down the cost of flying and learning to fly,” said Cessna CEO Jack Pelton. “We believe this aircraft will make a major contribution to stimulating new pilot starts and will encourage already-licensed pilots to continue to fly because it will be more affordable.” Pelton reported that the Cessna Sport incorporates several innovative features into the design and they believe they can deliver what they say is “the finest aircraft in the category at an attractive price.” The company will brief media on Sunday, show the aircraft on Monday the 23rd, and have a forum on the Cessna LSA later on Monday.
Sun ‘n Fun 2007 brought several interesting announcements; you’ll want to keep reading SPLOG in the days ahead. One surprise was what Cessna did with the Sport, their possible entry into the LSA field. Comments ranged from, “Now, that’s the right engine to use” to “What an ugly cowling” to other vivid expressions. Cessna shoehorned a 100-hp O-200 Continental into their proof-of-concept LSA entry (still with a spartan interior). Well, truthfully, it doesn’t look like much shoehorning happened. Instead, to accommodate the Continental, Sport’s nose cowling now bulges like a weightlifter. The O-200 also adds weight — reportedly “only” 30 pounds when Continental releases their Light Sport engine. That will further squeeze useful load but the Continental engine may satisfy a flock of potential Cessna Sport buyers — when and if the Wichita giant decides to produce it. General aviation still has a legion of folks who don’t like the Rotax 912 series that otherwise dominates light-sport aviation.
We’re down to the last week before the 2007 Sebring LSA Expo kicks off a new year in sport aviation. In attendance will be every market-leading airplane and some in the works. One of the most watched of these is the Cessna LSA. The company is still working on their “business case,” a formal plan for the Textron board to allow them to consider Cessna’s proposed entry to the world of Light-Sport Aircraft. But while the Wichita giant makes its decision key Cessna people will staff the company’s exhibit at Sebring…virtually sealing the case for the Expo being an important event on the LSA calendar. Sun ‘n Fun has also bought space to promote their full airshow in April. EAA will be hosting a whole series of forums. LAMA will holds its annual member meeting. And other groups will gather. Media people are asking for credentials.
Yesterday, I paid a visit to Cessna Aircraft and was generously hosted by John Doman, their VP of worldwide prop aircraft sales, Roger Martin, director of prop marketing, and Darren Jones, one of Cessna’s LSA Core Team members and a principal author of the business case being prepared to show Cessna and Textron management why proceeding with the LSA is advised. Leaders are still grappling with several challenges but one aspect has been confirmed. Through potential customer research and by talking to their 400 Cessna Pilot Centers and their dozens of STAR dealers, Cessna has become certain of the market for an LSA. You may already be convinced of this but the world’s largest airplane builder has data to prove their conclusion…such as 3,300 qualified customer surveys from those distributed at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. We were also given a tour of their jet manufacturing in one of the largest buildings in the state of Kansas.
What fascinating new airplanes might we expect at AirVenture 2006 in only a few days? Excitement surrounds Cessna‘s “proof-of-concept” entry. The company has no final determination, but they’ll reveal their PoC LSA near AeroShell Square at 9:30 on opening Monday. *** Later may come an entry from Van’s Aircraft, supplier of the most popular kit aircraft. They report, “We are now in the earliest stages of building a ‘proof-of-concept’ airplane…the RV-12. It’s an all metal side-by-side airplane with a low wing. It uses a tricycle landing gear and has a 100 hp Rotax 912S for power.” Hmmm? Cessna is also rumored to be considering Rotax. What could this mean for Rotax‘s penetration into the GA world, what with the largest GA and kit producers looking at the brand? Decisions aren’t final, though. Van’s Aircraft added, “We’d welcome written or emailed thoughts on the concept.
Almost first thing on opening day at AirVenture, Cessna lifted the black covering that kept their Proof-of-Concept LSA a secret. The veil is off and now we all know what the world’s largest airplane builder has in mind. Top Cessna officials, including president Jack Pelton, still say they are studying the entry. They’ll make their decision in the first quarter of 2007. Several issues are still being investigated inside the company and they will be surveying visitors at AirVenture to see what they think. *** The big question is…”What’s it look like?” The photo explains much, but what you can’t see is mostly metal construction with limited composite, It has gull-wing doors and significantly, it’s powered by a 100-hp Rotax 912S. The Proof of Concept Cessna LSA had no interior or avionics. If they decide to proceed it will sell for under $100,000. *** Many industry leaders applauded the entry as credible and attractive and many I talked to enthusiastically welcomed Cessna, if for no other reason than the validation it offers to Light-Sport Aircraft.
Unless you were hiding out in Italian vineyards like I was, you know Cessna flew their LSA on Friday the 13th (no superstition in Wichita, evidently). EAA’s Sport Pilot website has more details (and in-flight photo proof). What you may not know is that the big company will make a marketing splash at Sebring’s LSA Expo. Oh, I’m sure the Cessna LSA entry will also display at the AOPA Palm Springs Expo on Nov. 9-11. But Sebring’s January 2007 Expo is the coming-out party for new and upgraded LSA. So Cessna’s purchase of a booth at the Florida event is significant. *** They are also rumored to be checking out a parachute installation, probably since so many LSA come similarly equipped but it would also gain an extra safety margin for their test pilots. *** I’ll be paying the world’s largest airplane producer a visit in late November.