Wichita, Kan., Oct. 13, 2006 - Cessna Aircraft Company, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, announced the first flight of its Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) today. The airplane departed McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, Kan., at 8:33 a.m., performed a variety of flight maneuvers at speeds in excess of 110 knots (127 miles per hour), and landed 9:05 a.m. at Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport a few miles away.
"It's been nine months to the day since I gave the team the go-ahead to build an LSA concept aircraft," said Cessna Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Jack J. Pelton. "As the world's largest producer of single engine piston airplanes, it's a testament to the experience and engineering ability of the Cessna team that we were able to make this happen in such a short timeframe. I extend my congratulations to the team in getting the LSA airborne so quickly so we can further evaluate this promising concept."
The newly-emerging LSA category is the highest growth sector of general aviation. Light Sport Aircraft are defined as having a maximum gross weight of 1,320 pounds, maximum level-flight speed of 120 knots, and no more than two seats.
Pelton said the company will evaluate a spectrum of issues associated with entering the sector to determine if there is a favorable business case. That decision is expected to be made in the first quarter of 2007.
"An important part of our thought process in looking at LSA is the value in terms of new pilot starts," Pelton said. "Experience has shown that Cessna brand loyalty is a powerful force in our success, and we believe this new category of aircraft could provide a conduit for new pilots to grow through the Cessna product line in the years ahead. We also believe our extensive sales and service network could provide an important market advantage, which, in concert with our design and manufacturing experience, could make this an attractive extension of our product line."
Cessna's LSA proof-of-concept features a high wing spanning 30 feet, side-by-side seating for two in a cabin with a maximum width of 48 inches (a half-foot more than the ubiquitous Cessna 152), tricycle gear, and a 100-hp Rotax 912 engine.
Cessna's sport aircraft incorporates dual control sticks, upward opening doors, toe brakes, and a castering nose wheel. Construction is primarily of aluminum, with selective use of composite parts for the cowl, wing and dorsal fin.