06 December 2013

Cessna CEO: Skycatcher Has "no future"

I don't think this will surprise anyone: Cessna 162 production is about to be ended.

In October 2013 at the National Business Aviation Association convention Cessna CEO Cessna CEO Scott Ernest stated that the Skycatcher had "no future".

In my review of the Cessna 162 in November 2010 I noted that while the design did have some pluses, like the control stick, fit and finish and the doors there were many problems with the design, particularly:

  • The name "Skycatcher", which no one reacted well to.
  • The cockpit ergonomics, being unable to accommodate anyone over about 6'1".
  • Poor payload, which was 304 lbs of people and baggage on the one typical production aircraft I evaluated.

At one time the company had claimed that they had 1200 orders, which would have made the aircraft by far the most numerous LSA built, if they had all been delivered. But the initial target price of "under US$100,000" was not met and the price quickly increased to US$149,000, far above the price of its competition. The price increases contractually allowed production position holders to cancel and Paul Bertorelli of AVweb reports that "it gave position holders an opportunity to bail, and they did. In droves." So apparently orders are well down and dealers have aircraft they they can't sell.

At last count the FAA register shows 275 Cessna 162s in the USA, while Transport Canada shows none registered here.

Bertorelli lays the blame for the demise of the 162 on its high price, lack of performance and poor useful load compared to its competitors and he is probably right there.

The 162 had a troubled development history, with two prototype crashes, both during spin testing, resulting in some design changes. There were also wing modifications after the aircraft entered service, all at Cessna's expense, too.

Then there was the decision to have the aircraft built in China, which riled a lot of feathers in the aviation world. In the end the aircraft were built at Shenyang Aircraft, boxed up and shipped to Wichita, Kansas where they were assembled, had engines and avionics fitted, modified and then test flown by contractor Yingling Aviation (later moved to Cessna's Independence Kansas plant). With the cost of shipping that could only have contributed to the high costs involved.

Personally I think the design met its Waterloo when the prototype had its Rotax 912 engine replaced by the much heavier Continental O-200, at flight school operator insistence. That compromised the payload of the aircraft and left it as a de facto single seater.

In the final assessment it looks like even the famous Cessna name wasn't enough to overcome the shortcomings of this design and its price. The market has decided its fate.

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