Cessna announces super midsize Longitude business jet

Cessna introduced a new, super midsize business jet Monday at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Wichita-based manufacturer said the Citation Longitude will have a range of 4,000 nautical miles — sufficient to fly nonstop from New York to Paris — and a top speed of Mach 0.86.

It will be priced at $25.9 million.

Cessna said the airplane will have the longest range of its Citation business jet product line. A spokesman said the Longitude also will be the company’s biggest Citation jet.

The Longitude is expected to enter into service in 2017.

The airplane, at least initially, will be built in Wichita, following the company’s “traditional model” of building Citation jets, said Cessna spokesman Andy Woodward.

The announcement of the Longitude comes more than seven months after Cessna’s announcement of two other new business jets, the Citation Latitude and the Citation M2.

At the time of those announcements, in October at the National Business Aviation Association convention in Las Vegas, Cessna CEO Scott Ernest told the Eagle that Cessna was “looking at the options” of where to build the Latitude, a $14.9 million mid-size business jet.

In 2008, the Kansas Legislature offered $33 million in incentives to Cessna for a new Wichita plant to build the Columbus, an intercontinental, eight-passenger business jet the company later scrubbed during the economic downturn. Richard Aboulafia, a business jet analyst for the Teal Group, said it appears the Longitude may be a revival of the Columbus program, except the Longitude may be slightly larger.

He said a criticism of the Columbus was that it was a “little small” for its price point.

Cessna’s move to building a bigger jet is positive for a couple of reasons, Aboulafia said. For one, Cessna is investing in a new product, which he said suggests it is healthier than it was a couple of years ago. More importantly, it plans to build a jet in a size category where sales are more brisk.

“This is kind of on the cusp (of the large business jet category), which sure beats being nowhere near the cusp, which is where Cessna was,” Aboulafia said.

Also at EBACE on Monday, the Export-Import Bank of the United States said it had approved a guarantee of a $350 million loan facility to finance exports by Cessna and Bell Helicopter, both of which are owned by Textron.

EBACE runs through Wednesday.

Along with Cessna, Wichita business jet makers Bombardier Learjet and Hawker Beechcraft are among the show’s 300 exhibitors and have planes on display.

At the show, Hawker announced it took one order apiece for its Hawker 4000 super midsize business jet from Orion-Malta and JoinJet, and sold a third to InterAviation, a Romanian charter company.

The show comes at a time when Europe’s business jet fleet is shrinking, said Brian Foley, a general aviation analyst with Brian Foley Associates.

“I wouldn’t call it a disappearing act,” Foley said in a statement. “But it’s been a significant attrition and not altogether surprising in view of Europe’s economic woes.”

It may take another year before Europe’s fleet will show growth, he said.

Almost one business jet in five based in Europe is up for sale, Foley said. That’s more than a third higher than the worldwide average of 14 percent.

In the past 12 months, about 50 business jets operated in Europe have been sold into other continents whose fleets have grown an average of 3 percent.

Most of them have been sold into the U.S. and Canada.

Molly McMillin of The Eagle contributed to this report.