Cessna’s Chinese adventure a failure.


3,000cc PC Cruiser builder and Aeronautical Engineer Sarah Ashmore shared the following press release:


“Cessna President and CEO Scott Ernest is signaling that Skycatcher, the company’s low-cost, Chinese-built light-sport aircraft, has been relegated to the history books. “There’s no future,” Ernest said when asked about the aircraft at a Cessna press conference Oct. 21 at the NBAA convention in Las Vegas. Asked if that meant the project would be discontinued, he replied, “No future.” Skycatcher was launched six years ago with great fanfare by Ernest’s predecessor, Jack Pelton. Offered at an introductory price of $109,500, the aircraft attracted 720 orders worth more than $75 million in the first three weeks after launch, and backlog ultimately topped 1,000. But the project was bedeviled by manufacturing problems at its Chinese partner. Cessna also was forced to raise Skycatcher’s price, which caused its backlog to evaporate. Ernest was more upbeat on two new signature projects at the aircraft builder. The Citation Latitude mid-sized jet is on track to make its inaugural flight in the first quarter of 2014, and the Citation X — billed at the “world’s fastest civilian aircraft” — is expected to win final certification in March.”


In with a big bang and out with a whimper, thus ends Cessna’s 162 Skycatcher, an aircraft that was promised to set great standards in general aviation, ends up never even getting to heavy production in spite of having 1,000 deposits.

Note that the reason for the failure is: “the project was bedeviled by manufacturing problems at its Chinese partner” .  Where is all that Chinese workmanship and craftsmanship now? Please note that this project, specifically shipping it to China, was the brainchild of the former CEO Jack Pelton. In case you are wondering what that guy does for a living today, why of course he is head of the EAA. Does he sound like the person who really has his finger on the pulse of General Aviation?  Really understood traditional American aviation values? Absolutely not. Pelton was willing to sell out all the craftsmen who worked in Wichita for cheap Chinese labor if it could make a buck. If you work for a living, and you are an EAA member, you need no further proof that if there is a corporate dollar to be made, your interests, skills, support of our organization, and your respect for your fellow working Americans mean nothing to him. 

So Cessna finds out that they should have had these planes made in the USA. The corporate elite will blame the 2008 economy, but it is fair to ask what part of our economic troubles and slow comeback belongs to all the CEO’s like Pelton who shipped our manufacturing base overseas for their own profit.  (These are the people who can’t understand why a guy who had his skilled craftsman job outsourced in 2005 and now works in a $7/hr service job finds taking his family to Oshkosh unaffordable.)

And let us not forget the 1,000 wealthy buyers who certainly didn’t care where their new $100K toy was made, as long as they got to have it. We are all forced at times to purchase some imported things from places we don’t like, but a person who can buy a $100,000 toy with discretionary income isn’t forced to do anything. If you buy a pair of imported sneakers once a year, you are not giving away the same jobs nor fueling the trade deficit like a guy buying a Skycatcher.  I am sure plenty of these 1,000 eagerly awaited delivery while driving around in imported cars with “take back America” stickers on them.  If they don’t care that their imported Cessna would be built by $2/hr labor in a police state while the unemployment lines in Wichita got longer, then where do they draw the line?  If Jack Pelton had struck a deal with Bin Laden’s family to make Skycatchers at the family run IED plant in Pakistan, I am sure that 50% of the ‘patriotic’ 1,000 buyers would have asked “can I still get my Skycatcher this year at the same price?”

If I seem to be harsh on this, it might just be that you missed my long standing and vocal hatred of the C-162. When the plane lost both the prototypes in spins that Professional test pilots could not recover them from, I was glad to question if this plane was right for student pilots; When the EAA accepted samples to fly young air academy students in, I was among those that said you can’t tell a 15 year old to study and become an engineer if you show him a plane built elsewhere, and tell him he will never have a job producing them; I have pointed out countless times that there is no such thing as Chinese business ethics and quality control when it comes to making cheap things for export.

So, who will make America’s light planes? You will, the working American, just as you have always done. In 1946 Cessna went from war production to making 30 C-120’s and C-140’s a day, without any issue at all. The greedy corporate scum like Pelton had 6 years to tool up and they couldn’t hardly make 30 aircraft per year in China. The only important difference is that the Cessna ownership in 1946 respected their workforce of Americans, and 60 years later Pelton had all his faith in the best $2/hr Chinese workers he could buy. Moving forward, it is clear that Cessna has now abandoned the “affordable” aircraft market. This makes no difference to any homebuilder. In 1946, Cessna was something of a partner to American labor in producing that generation of affordable American aircraft. Today,  they have proven to be a worthless element. Each of us, developing our own craftsmanship, will work in our own one plane factory and produce our own aircraft. This is how American labor will build this generation of affordable aircraft. We don’t need cheap labor in China, we don’t need greedy CEO’s and we don’t need any membership organization that is headed by a person who fails to understand this.-ww.

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