October 11, 2011

Cessna unveils new jet

LAS VEGAS — Cessna Aircraft unveiled a new midsize jet Monday called the Citation Latitude at the National Business Aviation Association convention in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS — Cessna Aircraft unveiled a new midsize jet Monday called the Citation Latitude at the National Business Aviation Association convention in Las Vegas.

"It's an exceptional plane," said Cessna CEO Scott Ernest.

The question now is where the $14.9 million jet, which can hold up to eight passengers, will be built.

"We're still looking at the options," Ernest said.

"We have a fantastic workforce in Wichita."

The company is working with the state of Kansas on incentives but also is talking with several other states.

Cessna spokeswoman Dianne White said the company is looking for help with training and with research and development costs.

Wichita and Sedgwick County officials said Monday that Cessna has not contacted them about potential incentives.

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, who is at NBAA talking with Kansas companies, said he didn't know the specifics of the discussions with Cessna. But he said the state has had a long relationship with the company.

"We think Kansas is a great place in terms of the workforce, investment," Colyer said. "We're always wanting to increase manufacturing in the state of Kansas."

In the spring of 2008, the Kansas Legislature offered $33 million in incentives to Cessna for a new Wichita plant to build the Columbus, a program the company later canceled during the economic downturn. At the time, Cessna's parent company, Textron, said it was investing $780 million in the jet's development that would create up to 1,000 new jobs with a $74 million payroll.

The state also offered $27 million in bond financing to Bombardier Learjet last year in exchange for the company assembling the Learjet 85 in Wichita. The program is expected to support 600 jobs, including 300 new positions.

New products are good for Wichita because they mean jobs, Ron Eldridge, Machinists union aerospace coordinator from Wichita, said before the unveiling.

"This is a good sign," Eldridge said. "Any time a company brings a new product to market, that's good."

Speed, range, comfort

The Citation Latitude was built after talking with customers who wanted a plane with range and speed but also a comfortable cabin, said Brad Thress, senior vice president of Cessna's business jets.

"The Citation Latitude is a game-changer for the midsize segment, offering the payload, speed and range the market requires with an unmatched cabin experience at this price point," Thress said.

It's expected to receive federal certification and enter service in 2015.

The metal aircraft will fit between Cessna's XLS Plus and the Citation Sovereign. It will have the largest cabin of any Cessna business jet.

It will have the same wing and tail as the Sovereign, but otherwise it is an all-new design, Thress said.

"From the nose to the tip of the tail cone is all new," he said.

Kathy May, an assembler at Cessna for 14 years, shared the podium with Ernest to help with the Latitude's announcement. She said the new airplane will bring energy to the shop floor

"It means an exciting future," May said. "I'm very excited as to the production of this and where our company is going as a whole."

The Latitude is Cessna's second new product announcement in two weeks. On Sept. 26, Cessna launched the M2 light business jet, which replaces its Citation CJ1 Plus.

The Latitude will compete with Bombardier's Learjet 45 and Learjet 60, Hawker Beechcraft's Hawker 900XP and Embraer's 450.

It will have a range of 2,000 nautical miles and cruise at 442 knots, or a mile every seven seconds.

The unveiling on the opening day of the NBAA convention garnered a lot of attention. A line of people attending the show lined up to tour the mock-up of the plane.

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