Aviation

Textron Aviation puts plans on hold for its largest jet yet

What it will look like inside Cessna's biggest jet

From NBAA in Las Vegas, Textron Aviation's Christi Tannahill leads a tour of and changes to the interior of the Cessna Citation Hemisphere, a $35 million large-cabin business jet scheduled to make its first flight in 2019. Video by Jerry Siebenmar
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From NBAA in Las Vegas, Textron Aviation's Christi Tannahill leads a tour of and changes to the interior of the Cessna Citation Hemisphere, a $35 million large-cabin business jet scheduled to make its first flight in 2019. Video by Jerry Siebenmar

Textron Aviation's biggest Cessna Citation jet won't be flying in 2019, as the company had planned when it unveiled the Hemisphere nearly three years ago.

Scott Donnelly, chief executive of parent company Textron Inc., said on a conference call with analysts Wednesday that plans for the Hemisphere are on hold because of problems with the plane's proposed engines.

"I think everybody knows there have been some issues around the engine that was slated for that aircraft," Donnelly said. "At this point we have basically suspended the program and are waiting to see how the engine plays out. And then based on that, we'll make our decisions and move forward knowing what the performance of the engine is."

The company had selected Safran's Silvercrest engine to power the Hemisphere, though Safran has struggled with development of the new engine for several years. Earlier this year, French business-jet maker Dassault canceled plans to manufacture its new Falcon 5X jet because of continuing development issues with the Silvercrest engine.

Textron Aviation unveiled plans for the $35 million jet on the eve of the 2015 National Business Aviation Association Convention in Las Vegas.

The Hemisphere would have been Cessna's largest and longest-range Citation, with seating for up to 12 passengers and a 4,500-nautical-mile range.

A Textron Aviation spokeswoman said in an email to The Eagle that "the suspension will have no impact on employment." Textron Aviation has 9,000 employees in Wichita.

Textron Aviation currently has two other Cessna planes under development, the single-engine turboprop Denali and the twin-turboprop SkyCourier. A third plane, the Citation Longitude super-midsize business jet, is expected to receive its Federal Aviation Administration certification in the current quarter, which ends June 30, Donnelly said on Wednesday's call.

Donnelly's announcement didn't surprise business aviation forecaster Rolland Vincent.

Vincent said his company, JetNet iQ, expected a delay in the Hemisphere program because of development issues with the Silvercrest engine.

"If I was Pratt & Whitney, I'd be circling Wichita," he said.

Vincent thinks aircraft engine maker Pratt has a "very good" shot being the new engine supplier to the Hemisphere, or whatever the large cabin jet will be called after its current airframe is redesigned. He said a plane's engines and airframe "have to be optimized to each other," which almost certainly means a redesign for the Hemisphere.

And he doesn't think Textron Aviation is using the engine problems as a way to kill the large Cessna business jet before it's fully developed.

"I don't think the program is dead, it's on hold," he said. "The market is still there . . . and they have the luxury of time."

Textron Aviation's Citation Hemisphere (Courtesy of Textron Aviation)

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark
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