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5 questions with Ed Hackett

  • Published Thursday, Sep. 26, 2013, at 12 a.m.

Ed Hackett is program director for a small military jet, the Scorpion, designed from scratch and built in secret over the past two years at Cessna’s plant on Pawnee.

The project, announced last week, is a joint venture between a new Textron division, Textron AirLand, and AirLand Enterprises. A prototype is expected to fly this year.

The plane is a light jet designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance with a scaled strike capability, Hackett said.

Hackett, 53, grew up in New York and spent 25 years in the military.

As a sophomore in high school, Hackett knew he wanted to be a fighter pilot.

“Once I started flying, I fell in love with the machines,” Hackett said. “Some people love the pageantry of flying. For me it’s all about the machines. Being able to participate in the development of one — that’s what’s so exciting.”

Hackett is a graduate of the U.S Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Md. He earned a master’s degree in international strategic planning from the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

After retiring from the military, Hackett started a small company that works on research and development for projects related to operational fielding.

He came to work on the Scorpion project at Textron AirLand in Wichita two years ago.

Hackett and his wife, Alexandra, have two college-age children, Edward Jr., and Alexandra Lee.

Q. What made you want to join Textron and work on the Scorpion?

A. It’s a clean-sheet aircraft; it doesn’t get any more exciting than that. ... Textron also placed some high expectations on the project. (Textron chairman) Scott Donnelly said, “I want this aircraft from the start to full flight in under two years.” That’s when you know there’s a strong commitment behind it.

Q. What’s your biggest challenge?

A. The biggest challenge is presenting a capability offering to the Department of Defense at a time when they’re struggling with budgets, but they’re also struggling with their own internal requirement processes. ... The challenge is can the department see the value in a commercially derived offering for a technical solution ... on the military side.

Q. Is the Scorpion based on a Cessna Citation or another Cessna aircraft?

A. It is based on the engineering philosophy within Cessna. As we’re building the aircraft you have a group of engineers that have worked on many models and variations of business jets throughout their careers but never worked on a military product or military aircraft. So they’re very untainted and fresh thinking when they come into the tactical military market. ... The reason the aircraft can be pulled together so efficiently and effectively ... is these engineers know how to build value into the aircraft. If you don’t have to make a part for the aircraft, if it already exists, you use that. Many of the parts do come from the Citation line.

Q. You’re designing and building the prototype in Wichita. Wouldn’t Wichita be a natural fit to build the plane once it goes into production?

A. We’ve been really focused on the prototype aircraft. There’s been no decision and no analysis done on the production side of it at this stage. The rapid prototyping facility there at Wichita at the Pawnee facility is an absolute gem for Textron as a company and working together with Cessna and the depth of expertise there. We’ve drawn a considerable amount of expertise out of the entire community in Wichita. ... I have been amazed at how we have been able to do it in Wichita based on the depth and layers of the experience across engineering technical skills and the manufacturing side.

Q. The plane is mostly made from composites. That’s a departure from Cessna’s Citation line. What does this mean for the future at Cessna?

A. What is learned on this project connects directly to future developmental aircraft on the business (jet) side.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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