The Ups And Downs At Cessna

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Cessna Streamlines Production Process For The Sovereign ...

Production of Cessna's Sovereign business jet has taken off thanks to a new construction process being used at the factory. The company has implemented new retooling that promises to cut time and improve overall quality. Cessna claims this state-of-the-art technology allows workers to build the Sovereign from the exterior shell of the fuselage inward.

The retooling uses an air distribution system that sucks the aluminum fuselage skins into place against vacuum plates installed on the tool's walls. Workers then rivet the bottom and top of the sections together and add the inside frames, flooring, seat tracks and other interior components.

According to officials, the change cuts time, reduces flaws, increases consistency and saves money. In fact, Cessna claims this change will offer a 12.5-percent reduction in production time.

The change makes it easier for workers to work inside the fuselage sections because it eliminates the need for contour bars that take up space. Certification of the Sovereign is expected by the end of this year, with deliveries beginning in early 2004.

... As Temporary Furloughs Begin

Despite the start of a seven-week furlough of 6,000 Cessna employees, work on the Sovereign will continue. Faced with the cancellation of some orders from its biggest customer, NetJets, Cessna decided earlier this year to temporarily suspend most of its business jet production from June 2 through July 18. The announcement of the furloughs, which was made in mid-March, has given Cessna employees more than two months to plan for their involuntary weeks off. Nearly every department is affected, including the temporary loss of some senior vice presidents. While they're off without regular pay, Cessna workers can use a combination of vacation, sick leave and up to $345 a week in unemployment benefits. Officials hope this effort, combined with job cuts the company has already taken, will get them through the worst of this weak sales market. While the situation is a bit bleak, Lewis Campbell, chief executive of Cessna's parent company, Textron, told The Wichita Eagle the company is confident of the long-term growth potential for the business jet market. Development of Cessna's new products, such as the Citation CJ3, Mustang and Sovereign, will continue and remain on schedule. However, the production on other Citation and Caravan models will cease altogether.