Cessna's New Plane To Be Built In China
Textron Inc.'s Cessna Aircraft Co. will become the first U.S. manufacturer to turn over complete production of an airplane to a Chinese partner, a move intended to cut production costs and foster a nascent private-aviation market in China.
Cessna officials said China's state-owned Shenyang Aircraft Corp. will build the new Cessna 162 SkyCatcher at its factory in Shenyang, China. The planned single-engine, two-seat airplane will be the smallest in Cessna's product line. It is designed for training and what is known as the light-sport market, for recreational fliers.
Cessna hopes manufacturing in China will help keep the price of the plane low enough to attract new pilots to counter the dwindling ranks of U.S. recreational fliers. It also could lower the cost barrier for training new pilots amid surging demand for airline pilots world-wide.
The deal is scheduled to be announced this morning in China at a news conference in Beijing. Cessna, which said this summer that it would build the plane, estimates it will be available by late 2009.
Lewis Campbell, Textron's chairman and chief executive, said in an interview that lower manufacturing costs in China would allow Cessna to sell the airplane for $71,000 less than it would if it had built the plane at its factories in Wichita, Kan. The move also positions Cessna to play a larger role in the developing private- and corporate-aviation market in China.
'This will give us a foothold into a market that will expand over the next 10 to 20 years,' Mr. Campbell said. (Mr. Campbell is also a director of Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal.) Some training schools in China already have ordered the airplane, Cessna said.
Boeing Co. and Airbus, a unit of European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co., have used Chinese manufacturers for years to build parts for their planes. Neither of them has been willing to rely on outsiders to produce an entire product line, as Cessna plans.
Cessna says it will design the airplane and build the first prototypes in the U.S., but all of the production airplanes will be fabricated in China. Items such as engines and electronics will be supplied by Teledyne Continental Motors Inc. and Garmin Ltd. in the U.S. and shipped to China for installation and test flights. Airplanes destined for delivery in the U.S. and elsewhere will be partially dismantled for shipping and reassembled at approved Cessna locations, the company said. Cessna will provide on-site personnel to oversee manufacturing and quality assurance.
China has been home for component work for Western aircraft, but that involves less technical know-how than building a plane from scratch. In the 1990s, McDonnell Douglas Corp. attempted to build an assembly line in China for its single-aisle MD-80 jetliner, but the reception for the planes outside China was lukewarm, and the venture was abandoned in 1998 after only a handful were assembled.
Airbus is working with China to build a secondary assembly line for its A320 jet in Tianjin, but that factory will put together large assemblies from existing Airbus plants in Europe.
Mr. Campbell said Textron, of Providence, R.I., chose to partner with Shenyang because of the Chinese manufacturer's history of producing Chinese military and civil airplanes, as well as components for most of the world's big names in aerospace. Shenyang Aircraft Corp. is a unit of China Aviation Industry Corp. I, commonly known as AVIC I.
Luo Yang, chairman and president of Shenyang Aircraft, wrote in a release that the company 'sees Cessna as a significant partner.' Lin Zouming, president of AVIC I, said the government consortium 'has placed strategic importance on general aviation development and will strongly support and promote the business.'
Cessna said it will be able to deliver the first 1,000 planes for sale at $109,500 each, with subsequent planes costing $111,500 each. By comparison, the four-seat Cessna 172, Cessna's next-cheapest model, carries a base price of almost $220,000. The company said customers have preordered almost 900 SkyCatchers.
Cessna President Jack Pelton said that without China's participation, Cessna probably wouldn't have started the SkyCatcher program. 'If you are going to field a low-end product, this is about the only way you can do it,' Mr. Pelton said. He said the move won't result in a loss of jobs at Cessna's main plants, adding that Cessna has unfilled orders valued at $11.9 billion, with plans to expand its profitable business-jet line.
Manufacturers of small, propeller-driven airplanes have faced increasing pressure in recent years to make their products more affordable. The equation has become especially complicated during the past couple of years as oil prices have driven the price of aviation gasoline above $5 a gallon in many metropolitan areas.
Government officials and pilot groups say the rising cost of airplane ownership has contributed to an almost 30% drop in the number of licensed pilots in the U.S. since 1980, to about 579,100. Despite the drop, the light-sport niche has attracted new manufacturers and models in recent years as remaining pilots upgrade to advanced planes.
Growing demand for air travel also has led to a tight market for pilots world-wide, which threatens to stifle the industry's growth.
The problem is particularly acute in China and India, both of which have ordered hundreds of new jetliners to meet an explosion in demand for domestic and international air travel. In recent years, the Chinese government has loosened some of the many restrictions on private aviation and encouraged the development of an indigenous flight-training industry.
Yet, according to industry groups, there are about 70 business jets in all of China, although that number is growing.
'It took us 20 years to put the first 10 jets into China; then, last year alone, we delivered 10,' said Roger Whyte, Cessna's senior vice president for sales and marketing.
According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the country had 12,840 nonmilitary pilots in January 2006, the last date for which figures were available. About 27,000 students were enrolled among five civilian flight schools, two scientific-research centers and 11 scientific-research bases.
One of the most prominent, the Civil Aviation Flight University of China, has tripled its yearly capacity to 1,200 students and now operates one of the largest fleets of training planes in the world. By the end of the year, the university will have 117 Cessna 172s and six Cessna CJ1 jets in its fleet of 233 airplanes.
德事隆有限公司(Textron Inc.)旗下的Cessna Aircraft Co.将成为首家将整机制造工作交由中方伙伴完成的美国飞机制造商。该公司此举一方面是为削减成本，另一方面也是为了培育新兴的中国私人航空市场。
Cessna管理人士表示，沈阳飞机工业公司(Shenyang Aircraft Corp.)将在当地制造Cessna 162“捕天者”(SkyCatcher)飞机。这种飞机为双座单引擎，是Cessna各型号飞机中最小的一种，供飞行训练和轻型运动型飞行爱好者使用。
波音公司(Boeing Co.)和欧洲航空防务航天公司(European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co.)旗下的空中客车公司(Airbus)在多年之前就开始采用中国制造的飞机零部件。但这两家公司至今都不愿像Cessna这样将整机制造转移至海外。
Cessna表示，公司将在美国设计和制造“捕天者”原型机，但所有的量产型飞机都将在中国进行。发动机和电子系统将由Teledyne Continental Motors Inc.和Garmin Ltd.在美国生产，然后运往中国组装和测试。该公司称，销往美国和其他国家的飞机将在拆成大件后从中国运往销售地，再在获得Cessna认可的地点进行组装。Cessna将派人定点监督海外的制造和质保程序。
虽然中国是许多西方飞机零部件的生产基地，但这个过程涉及的技术离制造整机相距甚远。麦道公司(McDonnell Douglas Corp.)在九十年代曾在中国建立一条麦道－80窄体客机的组装线，但由于中国以外地区对此种飞机反应冷淡，负责此项目的合资公司在组装区区几架飞机后不得不在1998年关门大吉。
坎贝尔表示，德事隆选中沈飞集团为合作伙伴是因为后者有悠久的军用和民用飞机制造经验，并能够制造当今世界几乎所有名牌航空器所用的零配件。沈飞集团隶属与中国航空工业第一集团公司(China Aviation Industry Corporation I)。
Cessna表示，头一千架中国产Cessna 162的单价为109,500美元，在此之后的售价为111,500美元。这个价格仅次于售价为220,000美元的Cessna 172四座飞机。该公司宣称，已收到近900架“捕天者”订单。
Cessna负责营销的高级副总裁罗杰• 特(Roger Whyte)表示，公司向中国卖出头10架商务飞机用了整整20年时间，而到了去年，一年内就交付10架。
据中国国家民航总局(Civil Aviation Administration of China)最新的数据，截至2006年1月，全国共有非军用飞机12,840架。目前，民航系统共有5所民用飞行学以及两所科研中心和11个科研基地，在校学员27,000名。
其中最突出的当属中国民航飞行学院(Civil Aviation Flight University of China)。近年来，该校的招生能力扩大了两倍，目前每年能招收1,200名新生。它还拥有一支全球规模最大的教练机队。到今年末，其机队将拥有233架飞机，其中将有117架Cessna 172s和6架Cessna CJ1。