Cessna’s LSA and NGP grab lots of attention at Expo

This year was a busy one for the Cessna Aircraft Co. and it doesn’t look like 2007 will bring any kind of slowdown.

During AOPA Expo in Palm Springs last month, Cessna President and CEO Jack Pelton outlined some of the milestones the aircraft manufacturer hit in 2006, as well as plans for the upcoming year.

“For starters, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Cessna 172 and 182,” he said. “In 2007 we will be celebrating our 80th anniversary. That’s a big number for any company.”

Pelton added that Cessna continues to develop its product lines by developing its business jet line – the Mustang received its type certificate in September — as well as the piston products. Although the Next Generation Piston was not part of the outdoor Cessna display, the inside exhibit did have a mockup of the fuselage, sans yoke or stick in the cockpit.

Sales staff from Cessna noted that a decision on how the aircraft will be controlled has not been made yet.

Pelton noted that the NGP proof of concept was shown to Cessna dealers who were attending Expo and their responses were favorable.

Also in the realm of new — and attracting a lot of attention — was the Cessna Light Sport Aircraft. The C-LSA was on display at the outdoor exhibit.

Visitors carefully walked around the red and white high wing, noting that it bore no resemblance to Cessna’s other two-place models, namely the C-120, 140 and 150 series of aircraft.

“This is a clean sheet design,” said Pelton. “The cabin measures 48 inches across, which puts it on par with a 182, and there is a baggage area.”

The C-LSA made its first flight Oct. 13. When it arrived in Palm Springs roughly a month later it had 27 hours on the airframe.

“We brought this airplane out from Wichita which means we flew it over the Rocky Mountains,” a Cessna salesman told a curious onlooker. “We flew it, we didn’t truck it here. That should tell you something about its performance.”

The Cessna LSA features a 30-foot wing span and side-by-side seating for two. A 100-horsepower Rotax engine currently powers the aircraft, which is controlled by a stick rather than yoke, adding to its sporty looks and feel in the air. The wing strut is behind the door, which should make the aircraft easier to get in and out of than the older Cessna two-place models that have the strut in front of the door.

“The relocation of the strut gives you great visibility from the side windows,” said Pelton. “And this airplane was designed to put a smile on the pilot’s face.”

He added that Cessna is still involved in the refinement and enhancement of the Skyhawk, Skylane and Stationair models.

“Upgrades for the Cessna 172, 182 and 206 include installation of the Garmin 700 Series autopilot. That will give Citation-like performance in these aircraft,” he said, adding, “the next generation and the current piston line will be able to peacefully coexist.”

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