Cessna Commits To Continue SkyCatcher Program

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Cessna said in a news release on Wednesday that it is fully committed to the Model 162 SkyCatcher despite two accidents during the flight test program, in which two airplanes were destroyed. "The need for a modern, cost-effective two-seat trainer aircraft has never been greater, and we believe we are well positioned to meet that need," said Cessna CEO Jack Pelton. "The SkyCatcher program is an important part of our strategy." Pelton said that in the most recent incident, last Thursday, the aircraft was undergoing a very aggressive spin test regime -- power on and cross-controlled -- when it entered a spin that was not immediately recoverable. This spin test was one of more than 500 flown to date using various combinations of center-of-gravity positions, power settings, flap settings and control inputs. The pilot deployed the airframe parachute in accordance with the flight-test procedure and emerged from the aircraft unhurt after it touched down.

Last September, an earlier test aircraft was destroyed when the pilot parachuted to safety after being unable to recover during aggressive spin testing. "We test all our aircraft well beyond the limits of what is expected in normal operation," Pelton said. "By the time a Cessna aircraft enters service we have the highest degree of confidence in the design, flight characteristics, manufacture and quality of the aircraft." Pelton added that company engineers have obtained valuable data on the crashworthiness of the aircraft and the operation of the Ballistic Recovery System (BRS) airframe parachute as a result of the two incidents. The BRS is offered as an option on the SkyCatcher. "We are making every effort to minimize the impact on deliveries to our customers," Pelton said. The SkyCatcher is a two-seat light sport aircraft powered by a 100-horsepower Continental O-200 engine. The program was launched in 2007.