LAS VEGAS — Cessna Aircraft may unveil a new member of its product line today as the National Business Aviation Association show opens.
Black curtains covered the product Sunday, next to mock-ups of the Citation M2 and Citation Ten business jets.
Speculation is the announcement will be a possible replacement for the Citation Sovereign mid-sized jet, with a wider cabin and winglets.
Meanwhile, Cessna CEO Scott Ernest and other executives provided a company update at a media briefing during press day at the annual convention at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
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Late last month, the company unveiled plans for the $4.2 million Citation M2, filling the slot vacated by the CJ1 Plus, a jet the company quit building earlier this year.
The market for business jets is "still very spotty," Ernest said during the briefing. "It's a tough environment."
Despite that, Ernest expects aircraft deliveries this year to be up slightly over last year. He declined to say how many he projects will be delivered. That will depend on the market, he said after the briefing.
Cessna delivered 178 business jets last year, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.
Under Ernest's leadership, Cessna has reorganized its sales force into jet and piston lines of business, with leaders focusing on each segment. And it's expanding its global sales force.
"We're going out to develop a new market, and we're moving strong and we're moving fast," said Mark Paolucci, Cessna vice president for sales.
The company also is focusing on military sales. The company recently hired Bell Helicopter executive Bill Anderson to lead its federal government and military sales. His first day in Wichita is later this month.
"We have the ability to design and deliver good, cost-effective products," Ernest said of the reasons behind the move.
The time was right to introduce the six-passenger M2, Ernest said, despite waning sales of the CJ1 Plus. For the past three years, Cessna has focused on driving costs out of its products. That effort made the M2 possible, he said.
Hawker Beechcraft executives opened a day of news briefings with an update on the company.
Chairman and CEO Bill Boisture and other officials unveiled a new look for the Hawker and Beechcraft brands and announced some product upgrades.
"The only consistent thing we see in this economy is inconsistency," Boisture said. "We think 2012 will be a lot like 2011, which was a lot like 2010."
The company will continue to produce airplanes in a cadence appropriate to the market, he said.
It had a successful order intake during the third quarter, and international business is growing, with 70 percent of its products now being shipped offshore.
The new branding for the products reflects the clear distinctions between the Hawker and Beechcraft brands and their markets, said Shawn Vick, Hawker Beechcraft executive vice president.
Hawker's brand is reflective of the aesthetics and engineering of the products, while Beechcraft's branding reflects the plane's ability to be locally responsive and individualized, Vick said.
The company is also marketing its products around the world by working with multiple public relations agencies with specific regional expertise to tailor the marketing to different regions, he said.
The company has received federal certification for improvements to the avionics and various systems for the Hawker 4000 aircraft. They're being installed in all new Hawker 4000s coming off the production line and on existing planes.
Boisture said the upgrades are a commitment to the airplane, and that installing them on existing airplanes gives customers the Hawker 4000 they wanted.
"I think we're going to see some very satisfied owners," he said.
Bombardier Aerospace officials announced that production has begun on the new Wichita-assembled Learjet 85 business jet.
The program has moved from the critical design-review stage to the manufacturing-validation process.
"We have made solid progress," Ralph Acs, vice president and general manager of Bombardier's Wichita plant, said.
Manufacturing sites are ready, and the company has been building parts.
Production tooling is in place at its plant in Queretaro, Mexico. So far, several test fuselages and key elements of the composite structure have been produced there to validate manufacturing and assembly processes, the company said. A full-length composite fuselage has also been assembled, and production of the first flight test aircraft is under way.
The Learjet 85, launched in 2007, is expected to enter service in 2013.