Sources: Cessna working on large-cabin jet

The large-cabin business jet market has been the industry’s most stable and lucrative segment in the wake of the recession, and multiple sources say Wichita’s Textron Aviation is crafting a Cessna Citation to again try and crash the party.

Aviation analyst Rolland Vincent, of Rolland Vincent Associates, says he has heard the move could come in the form of an upgrade to Cessna’s developing Citation Longitude program. “They are definitely looking at a large cabin and I think it has to do with a rethink on the Longitude,” Vincent says. “I think it’s going to be enhanced to be bigger and have a longer range.” Vincent also says he thinks the re-design could be being timed around a splashy announcement at the NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition this November in Las Vegas.

Cecil Miller, owner of Aero Business Group in Wichita — which correctly predicted the 2013 purchase of Beechcraft Corp. even after the company had exited bankruptcy — has heard the same.

“I think there is a big plane under development at Cessna,” he says. It’s more when than if, Miller believes, with the main question being just how big the new airplane will be.

That’s in keeping with the comments of Textron Inc. CEO Scott Donnelly earlier this month, who said there is a plane under development to follow the Longitude. He did not, however, provide any detail on the size of aircraft in development. Vincent believes that admission could set the stage for an even splashier announcement at NBAA. He sees nothing preventing Cessna — which now has essentially completed development on its Citation Latitude — from moving on to a completely new clean-sheet product. And, he says, it could also be both: an upgraded Longitude and a new jet as part of two-plane family to break into the large-cabin market.

Vincent sees the segment including the Bombardier Challenger 650 and the Dassault Falcon 2000 as particularly ripe for a new offering. Cessna’s last serious foray into the large-cabin market came in the form of theColumbus program, which was ultimately canceled as it fell victim to the recession.

But the time appears right again, Vincent says. And with a large customer base in existing Citations and Hawker jets — also now part of the Textron Aviation lineup — the opportunity to sell to those customers looking to step up to larger jets is an opportunity that makes sense. “I really think that’s the market they’re looking at,” Vincent says. “And brand loyalty is a big deal in this industry.”

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