Is Cessna Pulling Out Of General Aviation Again?

Pulling OutImage from file

Is Cessna Pulling Out Of General Aviation Again?

Opinion Editorial written by Jason J. Baker –  It appears to be happening at a glacial pace, but ever so slowly I realize that Cessna’s recent removal of the $465,000 Skyhawk JT-A from its product portfolio underscores the company’s declining relevance in general aviation training, a segment it once owned. What would happen if Cessna decided to exit the piston single market entirely? From the European perspective, not much.

Pulling Out

File Image – Seaplanemagazine.com

Quietly erasing a shelf queen like the TTx out of the showroom without blinking may make sense from a future business-case perspective. Losing dead weight is paramount when trying to get a global enterprise of the size and magnitude of Textron set up for the future. While Cessna acted without much fanfare (again), the industry seemed mildly surprised, especially considering Piper’s recent move to equip its PA-44 Seminole with diesel engines after having already done so with the Archer DX.

Diamond has achieved great success with Jet-A burning engines in its twins and the DA-40 single. No other manufacturer has matched that and now Cessna is essentially saying the effort is not worth it. Converting an older airplane to diesel hasn’t been a big business, either

Even though TBRs were raised from 1200 hours to 2100 hours for the Continental CD-135 and CD-155 engines in 2016, an owner still only has 2100 hours to amortize the engine before replacing it. Checking prices on the Continental website reveals that the engine alone will cost owners between $36,000 and $42,000, plus the labor cost for the conversion.

Having flown an early Thielert-equipped Cessna 172 in Germany some 15 years ago, I remember how much money our flying club spent on the conversion. The conversion came to us thanks to a student who attempted to use the aircraft to explore the off-road capabilities of the Skyhawk, bringing it to a sudden and metal-bending stop in a ditch. The outgoing engine was near TBO, so insurance helped make the jump. At the time, AVgas was already killing us, even though we were nowhere close to last week’s price point above a high of $13 per gallon.

Even here in Europe, Diesel has seen a sharp price hike and the government is actively working to discourage any new diesel sales. Some manufacturers are offering buyback guarantees in case some sudden knee-jerk reaction tanks the market.

Even though we see development with electric/ diesel hybrids and further work on fuel cells and pure electrics, anything diesel already looks a bit outdated here in Europe. Volkswagen didn’t help the cause with its scandalous software tweaking and particulate air pollution is looming larger as a public concern. Over here in Europe, we seem bent out of shape by plans to prohibit diesel-powered vehicles from major cities in Germany.

In that context, Cessna’s abandonment of diesel makes more sense. Flight schools who are scraping by are not in the market for new air-frames and chances are if the trusted old 172 needs replacement, it may well be another used airplane at a low price. Maybe a Cessna, maybe not.

Flight schools that are doing well and are in the market for new make their decisions based on sharp-pencil calculations, not emotion. The trends seem to be drifting away from the traditional players such as Cessna and Piper and more toward one of the countless LSA-style aircraft, which will more than likely put the pilot behind a Rotax.

Maxing out at 145 horses with its new 915iS, Rotax just isn’t quite ready for heavier airplanes or is only attractive on smaller multi-engine applications such as the DA-42 and SeaBears’ new amphibian.

Pure electrics and hybrids will probably gain traction in Europe and even Asia before there’s any meaningful market movement in the U.S. Cessna and Textron have signaled no interest at all in this segment, but plenty of others have. Perhaps Textron is working on something in secret, but if so, it might be a good idea to let the rest of us know before everyone loses interest in anything Cessna. This Opinion Editorial originally appeared on AVweb.com

Jason J. Baker is a self-employed marketing & advertising consultant, translator and freelance writer with a focus on the aviation and automotive industry. He holds a commercial pilot certificate (SEL/SES/MEL), instrument rating as well as advanced & instrument ground instructor certificates. Jason is the owner & managing editor of Seaplanemagazine.com and also serves as Editor Europe for AVweb.com. For more information about consulting and writing services offered, visit Baker Aviation Consulting & Services.

Freelance Writer | Marketing & Advertising Consulting | Social Media Management

 

 

 

8 Comments on "Is Cessna Pulling Out Of General Aviation Again?"

  1. Michael Martinez | June 5, 2018 at 8:57 pm |

    $300-400,000+ for a basic trainer will kill any market. For that price I can purchase a Lamborghini Aventador and carry more at 200mph. Just not worth it.

  2. Sad that Cessna and Piper have ignored skilled designers like Burt Rutan and continue to crank out the same boring, outmoded and outdated designs. The US Light Sport class unattractive to anyone desiring to be a profesional pilot becuase it is is limited by speed and other restrictions (no retractible, no controllable prop).

  3. John Spitzer | June 5, 2018 at 11:16 pm |

    General Aviation for all but the wealthy will be pricing itself out of the market entirely if the trends of the past many years continue. Just a matter of time. Even the LSAs are overpriced and have limited use as travel machines. Getting a private and possibly an instrument rating is such a large expense it leaves little left over for enjoyment by an average person.

  4. Joseph Crecente | June 6, 2018 at 12:34 am |

    Does this leave an opening for the tail-draggers that are not typically trainers, such as the Maule? Maule is now offering a sub-$200K model.

  5. Cessna wants out of the Piston engine business. Period. No more T182T, TTX gone, terrible aftermarket support.

  6. Frank gonzalez | June 6, 2018 at 7:23 am |

    The normal production airplanes are really expensive & like cessna’s are a dying equation of old times… and now more more only for the rich. In contrast see the Experimental Aircraft Association that has created so much new technology and greater airplanes like the RV Fleet with more than 6000 airplanes. Granted that me or a lot of people don’t have the time or expertise to build an airplane in a time period of five to seven years so there’s new companies emerging that are a delightful compromise of helping you in the production within a month or two to adjust about flying airplane that you know fairly well it’s quality and it can actually outperformed most of the typical market spamcans. It’s those outdated faa regulations, that won’t allow them to be used for training or commercial ops. but as they continue to mature into reliable almost ready to fly kits, they present your opportunity of obtaining a truly modern airplane at a decent price that you also had a hand in producing. Just think about it more modern engines better Avionics better design modern materials and safer overall quality . I see this as some more positive future for general aviation in the United States, where the idea,of hard work and Innovation and the spirit of do it yourself,IS a given
    Let’s keep focusing not only in the airplane design, but in the way we produce them along with modern clients, willing to put some time and Sweat Equity for a month or two, creating a new equation and a better product for the future of Aviation.

  7. John Sorensen | June 6, 2018 at 1:26 pm |

    Cessna priced itself out of the training market a long time ago. The typical Mom & Pop type of FBO that is the backbone of general aviation flight training in the USA can’t afford to buy a new trainer airplane when the BASE Cessna 172 is selling for $300k or better.

  8. Diesel engined light aircraft were the creation of a European tax structure that doesn’t tax jet fuel while taxing gasoline very heavily – that’s their only reason for being. Diesel maintenance and replacement costs are very high so there is no market in the US, where most GA sales occur. One manufacturer has a viable product for the European tax avoidance based Diesel market, Diamond, but their total sales (diesel plus gasoline) were 137 aircraft last year and they were sold to the Chinese. On top of that, there is a political headwind blowing against Diesel engines. That’s why Cessna is pulling away from Diesels, it’s nothing to do with their attitude toward General Aviation or selling to the training school market – which is where new 172s are sold in 2018.

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