With new planes in pipeline, Textron considers adding jobs

The Cessna Citation business jet assembly line at Textron Aviation’s West Campus.
The Cessna Citation business jet assembly line at Textron Aviation’s West Campus. File photo

Textron Aviation could add more than a couple hundred jobs in Wichita.

That’s according to the planemaker’s request for the city to issue it $434.8 million in industrial revenue bonds over the next five years. The bonds are basically low-interest loans that companies have to repay. They are used for capital improvement projects.

The City Council is expected to hear and vote on the request from the manufacturer of Cessna jets and Beechcraft planes Tuesday.

The request would include a five-year property tax break on improvements and expansion to Textron Aviation’s buildings in Wichita, as well as equipment it buys as part of those improvements. The tax break would be renewable for an additional five years, city documents said.

The company “estimates that it may hire 250 employees in its local operations during the period covered by the Letter of Intent (2018-2022),” according to a letter from Textron Aviation vice president and controller Jodi Noah requesting the bonds.

“However, the Applicant cannot make guarantees in that regard as it is dependent on many factors not within the Applicant’s control, including general economic conditions and the overall demand for general aviation aircraft,” the letter said.

Textron Aviation now employs 9,000 people in Wichita and Sedgwick County.

The issuance of the bonds is not tied to the prospect of Textron Aviation adding jobs in Wichita, only that it “maintain at least that level of employment over the next five years,” city documents said.

Neither the city documents nor the Textron letter identify specific reasons for the bonds. City documents said $24.4 million would be for buildings and improvements, while the remaining $410.4 million would be for tooling, furniture and fixtures.

But the city notes that Textron is in the early stages of developing what would be Cessna’s biggest jet yet, the $35 million large-cabin, long-range Citation Hemisphere, as well as the multi-mission military jet, the Scorpion.

“Should the company be successful in achieving new contracts for new airplanes such as the Scorpion, it anticipates substantial increases in employment levels,” city documents said.

The bond request follows a more than $100 million investment by Textron in its Wichita operations in 2017, according to city documents.

The Scorpion and the Hemisphere are just two of Textron Aviation’s newest aircraft. It’s already begun full-rate production of the $23.8 million Citation Longitude business jet in anticipation of Federal Aviation Administration certification this year.

It also is developing the $4.8 million Cessna Denali single-engine turboprop airplane with expectations for first flight this year.

And more recently, the company announced last December the $5.5 million Cessna SkyCourier, a twin-turboprop airplane designed for air cargo and regional airlines. FedEx has a firm order for 50 of the airplanes with an option for 50 more.

Textron Aviation produced this video showing a variety of its aircraft, including the Citation Longitude and Scorpion tactical jet, performing flight test maneuvers over Wichita and Kansas. Video courtesy of Textron Aviation

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark