Aviation

Timing is right for final certification of new Latitude jet

Textron Aviation is bringing the Cessna Citation Latitude to market at the right time, say analysts, who expect the nine-passenger business jet to compete well in its market segment.
Textron Aviation is bringing the Cessna Citation Latitude to market at the right time, say analysts, who expect the nine-passenger business jet to compete well in its market segment. Courtesy photo

Cessna’s newest jet has cleared its last regulatory hurdle, and the timing couldn’t be much better.

Textron Aviation on Friday said its Cessna Citation Latitude has been granted Federal Aviation Administration type certification, and deliveries of the $16.3 million jet will begin in the third quarter of 2015, about four weeks away.

“It’s clearly good news to have that airplane in that configuration now because the market for small and medium jets is starting to pick up,” said independent aviation analyst Brian Foley. “So it’s very timely.”

The nine-passenger jet also should prove to be a worthy competitor to Cessna’s Brazilian competition, Embraer, and its Legacy 450 and Legacy 500 business jets, Foley and other analysts said. Embraer has been impinging on Cessna’s market share in recent years, and the Latitude could help it regain some of it, or at least stave off further gains.

“In business aviation, generally 70 percent of sales are to repeat customers so, as a result, a lot of the Latitudes will go to existing Citation owners. … That’s who it’s going to appeal to the most,” Foley said. “The other 30 percent, that’s where you have to have an edge with Embraer.”

In announcing type certification, Wichita-based Textron Aviation did not disclose total orders for the Latitude. It did say that NetJets is one of its earliest customers and has an order for up to 150 Latitudes. That deal was originally announced in the fall of 2012, when NetJets placed a firm order for 25 Latitude with options for 125 more.

In a conference call with analysts in late April, Scott Donnelly, CEO of parent company Textron Inc., said the company had a “number of orders” for the Latitude. “… So I think we’re in a pretty good place,” Donnelly said on the call.

Like Foley, aviation forecaster Rolland Vincent said the Latitude’s likely customers are owners of Cessna Citation Excel, XLS and XLS-Plus jets. He estimates there are 880 of those jets operating today.

“(The Latitude) is a natural step up for people with the XLS and Excel,” Vincent said.

“Personally, I think this airplane has the potential to be amongst the most successful Citations Cessna has,” Vincent added.

The Latitude is the first Citation to have a flat floor and a stand-up cabin that reaches six-feet-high. Its fuselage is a new design, and its wings and tail are borrowed from the Citation Sovereign-Plus. It has a range of 2,700 nautical miles at high-speed cruise.

Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with the Teal Group, said because the Latitude has a new design fuselage, he considers it the company’s first new-design jet since the rollout of the much smaller Mustang in 2006.

“It’s commendable they’re returning to new product development,” Aboulafia said. “It seems to be a good product at a good price point. … Hopefully it holds the line preventing any further erosion in their market share (from Embraer).”

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

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