A Glimpse Into Cessna's Crystal Ball

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Anytime Cessna Chairman, President and CEO Jack Pelton reveals what's on his mind, you can be sure that plenty of people will be paying close attention. Last Friday, he delivered a lengthy speech at the University of Northern Colorado in which he outlined what he sees as the assets and obstacles to growth in the GA industry. Topping the list of obstacles are user fees. Defeating the FAA's proposal is "critical to the future well-being" of the GA industry, Pelton said. If user fees are imposed, "instead of growing to meet the global demand and retaining our national leadership in general aviation, we will retreat and ultimately lose out to Japan, to Brazil, to Canada." Pelton also expressed skepticism that a new air-taxi industry using very light jets will take off anytime soon. "We believe the air-taxi segment will show a gradual growth curve that takes into account the economic realities of ramping up aircraft production, public acceptance of the concept, and the need for a critical mass of aircraft in each region to minimize the expense of deadheading," he said. "We believe the true air-taxi concept will be many years in the making." Pelton also said that the much-talked-about new markets of India and China are still 10 to 15 years away from having the infrastructure needed for GA to blossom. Right now, the international growth opportunities are in Central and South America and Europe, especially Eastern Europe. "Europe would grow much faster were it not for the oppressive user fees, landing fees and overflight fees levied on all aircraft, regardless of how they are used," he said. Pelton also said the most exciting new technology now in the works for GA is synthetic vision. "With such a system, the pilot can navigate mountain passes in darkness or bad weather, and land in fog," he said.