First Flight For Cessna SkyCatcher Prototype

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Cessna's new Model 162 SkyCatcher prototype flew for the first time on Saturday morning, the company announced on Monday. Test pilot Dale Bleakney flew the airplane out of Cessna Aircraft Field Airport in Wichita and evaluated its controllability and stability. He then landed at Mid-Continent Airport, also in Wichita, where development testing will continue. "The first flight of the SkyCatcher is a significant step ahead toward our goal of bringing an affordable training aircraft to market," said Cessna CEO Jack Pelton. The company is also building the first production model, which is scheduled to fly later this spring, and an ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) test article, which is currently undergoing load testing. All engineering work and testing of the 162 will be completed in Wichita, the company said, although the airplanes will be built in Shenyang, China.

Cessna said its engineering team "continues to evaluate" the 100-hp Continental O-200 engine that is installed in the proof-of-concept aircraft, which first flew in August 2007, just weeks after the program's official launch at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. The SkyCatcher is priced at $111,500. It is expected to cruise at speeds up to 118 knots with a maximum range of 470 nautical miles, a useful load of 490 pounds and a usable fuel capacity of 24 gallons. The aircraft will feature a Garmin G300 avionics system, and will be capable of day and night VFR operations, Cessna said. First deliveries are expected by late 2009.