Cessna Resumes Corvalis Production, Not In Bend

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Production of the Columbia 350 and 400 at a plant in Bend, Ore., failed to prove profitable for Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Co., and Cessna is now attempting -- beginning last Tuesday -- to profitably build the design as the Corvalis 350 and 400 at plants in Kansas and Mexico. The move, approved in May, will turn to production very slowly, however; it's predicted that a first aircraft to follow the move will take six months to manufacture. The timing will allow the company to properly arrange logistics for the complexities of the move, which includes 30 workers moving from Bend to Independence and the move of composite construction to Mexico. It should also clear Cessna's sitting inventory of a handful of finished unsold Corvalis aircraft. Cessna's short-term plan has workers assembling Corvalis planes inside its Independence paint facility, with a move to a more permanent production line by year-end. That line will be housed in the same facility as the company's Citation Mustang and piston-single lines. Workers in Mexico will build up the aircraft's composite structure, with workers in Independence performing the various installations of avionics, engine, interior and paint that follow, along with the work of flight-test and final delivery. At least one source at Cessna thinks demand may be starting to recover.

Some 24 Corvalis aircraft were delivered in the first half of 2009, which is nearly half the number delivered during the same period in 2008. But according to Cessna vice president of Mustang and single-engine piston products Rob Holter, there are signs the market may be picking up. "We're seeing some movement," Holter told the Bend Bulletin. Cessna hopes to deliver about 400 single-engine aircraft this year -- 333 less than the company delivered in 2008.