Good-Bye Columbus?

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Textron CEO Scott Donnelly says there are no plans to resurrect the Cessna Columbus wide-cabin business jet project even though big jets are selling well and the small-to-medium-sized business jet sector has struggled. "The large market is pretty well-served," Donnelly told a conference call to discuss the company's financials. "I don't think it would be the right use of our capital." Cessna is defending its dominance in the smaller jet sector against a methodical assault from Embraer and introduced two new models, the M2 and the Latitude at NBAA in October, that are aimed directly at Embraer offerings. Meanwhile, Donnelly says there are signs of recovery in the market and Cessna made money last year.

Cessna made $60 million on sales of $3 billion in 2011, compared to a $29 million loss on a gross of $2.56 billion the previous year. Although the balance sheet looks better, the backlog continues to slip and dropped by $1 billion to $1.9 billion, which at current production rates is about eight months. Companies aim for about 18 months in backlogged orders. Donnelly said Cessna will make up for the backlog in "spot" market sales that are not already on the books. "But we believe market demand should increase throughout the year," the Wichita Eagle quoted him as saying. "It's all about selling aircraft."