Air Capital Insider

Textron Aviation considers new airplane

The new aircraft development pipeline is continuing to unfold at Textron Aviation.

The Wichita-based manufacturer of Cessna and Beechcraft airplanes said Tuesday it is “moving forward” with plans for a new airplane: a single-engine turboprop.

“Textron Aviation has been listening to the market and sees an opportunity to fulfill a gap in our broad product line,” said a company statement e-mailed to The Eagle on Tuesday.

The airplane would have a range of more than 1,500 nautical miles and fly at more than 322 miles per hour, or 280 knots. It also would have “best in class” operating costs, the statement said.

Those specifications mean the airplane would be faster and fly farther than Textron Aviation’s Beechcraft King Air C90GTx twin turboprop or the Cessna Caravan, the company’s only single-engine turboprop in its product line.

“We intend to outperform the competition with the introduction of this product – from cabin size and acquisition cost, to performance capability,” the statement said.

Company officials also said separately that the airplane would be a “clean sheet,” design and not a derivative of an existing airplane.

Based on the specifications of the aircraft Textron Aviation is proposing, the new airplane would compete directly with an airplane such as the Pilatus PC-12, a Swiss-built single-engine turboprop with a 1,500-nautical-mile range, a top speed of 280 knots and capacity for two pilots and between six and nine passengers.

“This is a spot that Textron really hasn’t done a lot with,” said Wayne Plucker, senior aerospace and defense analyst for Frost & Sullivan. “Certainly Beechcraft has the entire King Air series. They’re great airplanes but they’re getting long in the tooth.

“I think there may be an opportunity for something that’s not a Cessna-type aircraft and not the Beechcraft (King Air).”

Plucker said the PC-12 has been a strong seller for Pilatus.

“Enormously well,” he said. “They were producing over 100 a year just two years ago. They were off last year, producing less … (but) the market softened a little bit.”

He said there are other single-engine turboprops in the “low end” of the business aircraft market. But should Textron enter it, that’s “a cachet that other companies can’t match, I think.”

Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia said the absence of a Textron Aviation product in that market niche “is not the hugest gap” for the company, but “it’s a bunch of pilots and owners (Textron) should be going after.”

Textron Aviation officials declined to go beyond the statement about the new aircraft – including where it would be built and whether it would be a Cessna or Beechcraft product.

But the company said in the statement that it “plans to have an single engine turboprop article” at the AirVenture show in 2016.

If Textron Aviation does go through with the new airplane, it would be the company’s second new airplane program in as many years. Last month, the company received certification of its mid-size Cessna Citation Latitude business jet.

Company officials said in the statement to The Eagle that Cessna has had an on-going single engine turboprop development program for several years.

Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 316-268-6576 or jsiebenmark@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jsiebenmark.

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