“We’re making it personal,” stated Cessna Chairman, President and CEO Jack Pelton.
The “it” he was referring to is the Cessna 162, also known as the SkyCatcher, the Light Sport Aircraft designed by Cessna.
A week before EAA AirVenture, Cessna officially announced it was going to move ahead with development of the LSA.
Cessna kicked off AirVenture 2007 by unveiling the SkyCatcher to the media and others in the GA industry. The event was held indoors at the EAA museum, where the SkyCatcher, painted a brilliant purple, was lit dramatically by floodlights.
The idea, said Pelton, is to enable people who have a passion for flight to be able to pursue that passion in a cost-effective manner.
EAA President Tom Poberezny drove home the reality of the cost of obtaining a pilot’s certificate by offering this sobering statistic: “Seven out of 10 people who start learning to fly never finish. Why? Two things: They run out of time and money.”
Poberezny noted that the number of pilots who are actively flying also has decreased dramatically over the years, and Sport Pilot — spearheaded by EAA — is designed to bring more people into aviation.
“We say that Cessna taught the world to fly and we will continue to teach the world to fly,” Pelton said, stressing that the design was clean sheet and not simply a re-worked C-150.
“Inside it is as wide as a Cessna 206,” he said. “Instead of having seats that move backward and forward, it has adjustable rudder pedals. It also has 40% fewer parts than a C-150, which helps us keep the costs down.”
Because the aircraft is designed as a primary trainer, it has to be durable, he continued. “It is constructed of aluminum and composite where it made sense to use composite,” he explained.
The high-wing LSA will be certified for day and night VFR. It is powered by a Continental O-200D, which will operate on 100LL. Pelton noted that last year, when Cessna brought its LSA proof-of-concept model to AirVenture, the plan was to test the model using a Rotax 912, which is what many other LSA manufacturers use. Market preference played a major role in the design of the aircraft and well as the choice of powerplant, Pelton explained. “We asked for feedback and we got it and we listened,” he said.
The cockpit features a Garmin 300, which is a glass panel designed by Garmin exclusively for Cessna. When asked about the option of including a G1000 in the LSA, Pelton noted that the aircraft, because of its intended mission, does not need the weight or complexity of the G1000. “The Garmin 300 will have the same feel as a G1000, but you really don’t need all that functionality in a day VFR airplane,” he said, adding that a G1000-equipped aircraft would drive the price of the LSA up substantially.
The price of the LSA is $109,500 for the first 1,000 orders. After that, the price will increase to $111,500, according to Pelton.
Orders for the new aircraft were taken during AirVenture. At the end of the week, more than 500 of the new LSA had been sold, according to a lighted sign keeping count at Cessna’s AirVenture exhibit.
EAA placed the first order. A grant from the Buehler Trust enabled the organization to order two SkyCatchers, which will be used for the Young Eagles and the Air Academy programs.
First flight of the prototype is slated for the first half of 2008, with first deliveries expected by the second half of the year.
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