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Commentary: An Unusual Performance By Cessna's CEO

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I think one of the defense mechanisms we in the aviation industry have developed is the ability to not take ourselves too seriously. By many normal standards, it can be a preposterous business where the leadership roles are populated with wide-eyed dreamers who almost invariably make their money in more mundane enterprises and promptly squander it on their passion. 

We tolerate it, sometimes even celebrate it, because it occasionally works spectacularly for the benefit of the whole industry. Where would the homebuilt industry be without Vans? What if the founders of Garmin had stuck to the far more profitable marine and consumer sectors? What if Bill Lear had settled for a piston twin?
 
And what would we do without Cessna? It's a question that entered the collective consciousness when Cessna's current CEO Scott Ernest stared down some aviation media reps and pretty much hung some of his executives out to dry in an uncomfortable exchange at NBAA in Las Vegas on Monday. 
 
We're the first to admit that aviation journalism is not generally a hardball affair. We're mostly here to relay the positive developments that companies announce and keep pilots and others in the industry abreast of the latest and greatest. We do have the ability and the responsibility to ask some tough questions at times and it's squarely in the CEO playbook to deal with those issues in a manner that best reflects their company.
 
In my opinion, Ernes gave petulant and peevish answers to legitimate questions about the future of the Skycatcher and Skylane diesel projects on Monday and these were as surprising as they were unsettling. It's no secret that the Skycatcher program has been in trouble since the first one got off the ground in 2006 but Ernest's snippy and dismissive "no future" comment was, in my view, both uncalled for and ill advised for a company that still has about 100 of the little airplanes left to sell. Those who have the responsibility to turn those airplanes into money must have been even more surprised than us.
 
Ditto his dismissal of questions surrounding the off-airport landing of the diesel last month. There are a lot of people watching and hoping that a name like Cessna can create a new heavy fuel aircraft that works in the real world,  just like its entry into the LSA market helped legitimize that part of the industry. Part of that means addressing the bumps and bruises of aircraft development with honesty and, frankly, a little dignity.
 
And that was part of the problem with his performance Monday. CEOs come to NBAA, in part, to put their companies in the best light. Ernest, in my estimation, did just the opposite. He clearly likes the fast and flashy stuff his company produces but his attitude toward some pretty benign questions about the Skycatcher and Skylane suggested contempt and derision for at least some parts of his company and his staff. It was an embarrassing public episode that should get the attention of the Textron board, in my view.
 
But because it was Cessna, that attitude reflected not just on the company but on the industry as a whole and that was the other part of the problem. Like it or not, when someone takes over the biggest little airplane company in the world, his responsibilities extend far beyond his own shop floor. Cessna is an industry leader and should behave like one.
 
Ernest knows that because he told me so. Two years ago when he was newly installed in his job I interviewed him at NBAA and commented that it was important for us to get to know him because "as Cessna goes, so does GA." He agreed enthusiastically and said: "That's absolutely right; as Cessna goes, so does GA."
 
Which brings us to the fact that Ernest is not a pilot and based on his post-press conference exchange with one of the reporters who challenged him during the news conference, appears to have little interest in becoming one (even though he has said in the past that he intended to learn to fly). Now, it's quite possible that Textron chose Ernest to replace Jack Pelton  specifically because he is not a pilot and the board wanted someone whose judgment wouldn't be clouded by passions or perceived alliances that might not be productive to the Textron bottom line.
 
Fair enough, but the pilots before Ernest who led Cessna to its current position did so in part by using that passion and those alliances to their company's advantage. When they made the inevitable tough decisions necessary in any business, they did so with the respectful understanding that their actions would be felt throughout the industry. As pilots, they were part of the world that could be shaken by an announcement like the death of the Skycatcher.
 
Even so, it's probably not absolutely necessary for the leader of Cessna to be a pilot. He or she should, however, at least be polite.
 
Join the conversation.  Read others' comments and add your own.

Comments (80)

Right on Mr. Niles. "No Future" may come back to haunt Mr. Ernest, in earnest.

Posted by: Robert Stapleton | October 23, 2013 2:24 AM    Report this comment

Scott Ernest was similarly obtuse during his opening address at the Cessna Pilot Center seminar last month. In one breathe he claimed that the 2013 and 2014 production runs of Skyhawks were sold, and then asked us all to sell more planes. When asked about when a plane sold would be delivered if the next 2 years or production were already sold, he replied "You sell them and we'll build more". It was clear at least to me that Cessna is purposely limiting production to keep prices high.

With no plans to bring back the 152, and a new 172 pushing $400k, the Skycatcher is the only entry level offering from Cessna. No future for the 162 means no future for Cessna in the flight training market. Someone from Textron HQ should take Mr. Ernest to the wood shed. No one learns to fly in a Citation.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | October 23, 2013 7:36 AM    Report this comment

To both Robert Stapleton and Jerry Plante's comments I say "Roger That!"

Posted by: Brad Snodgrass | October 23, 2013 8:23 AM    Report this comment

It is a shame to witness such poor leadership of a once admired brand.

Posted by: Bill Trent | October 23, 2013 8:59 AM    Report this comment

Something has changed in the past 20 years with regard to executive conduct. In positions that used to require skilled, thoughtful communication with investors and the public, many of these fellows today think that being rude and edgy shows the world how tough they are. But instead it comes across as childish and insolent behavior and really smears the face of an organization. Textron really should think about pushing the "eject" button as soon as possible.

Posted by: A Richie | October 23, 2013 9:04 AM    Report this comment

The Skycatcher has about zero utility and is a drag on limited resources for the company. With a ~480 lb useful load, the Skycatcher can barely carry two FAA-standard-sized people (much less carry two real Americans) and a load of fuel. How is that an answer to any flight school's need? Who has the cash to burn on a personal toy that can't haul a weekend's worth of bags? Manufactured in China? C'mon, will anyone really miss it?

Posted by: Robert Gregory | October 23, 2013 9:04 AM    Report this comment

I have no use for an airplane built in Communist China....

Posted by: Ed Zeigler | October 23, 2013 9:18 AM    Report this comment

Wasn't there so I can't evaluate the overall tenor of the exchange in terms of "politeness", but sometimes it's refreshing to hear the unvarnished truth delivered straight out.

The more usual performance is to be assured all is wonderful and then a few months later be hit out of the blue with the announcement of a division spinoff & sale to some slice-and-dice corporate dismantler. Or worse.

Posted by: John Wilson | October 23, 2013 9:36 AM    Report this comment

Piston GA would be much better off without Cessna. If only they would really go away rather than continuing to siphon off the demand and utterly destroying pilot retention we could get some folks who care to create a better training plane and program.

I see their diesel 182 program as nothing more than an attempt to get the skinny on their, Textron's, engine competition and squash it until their own is ready. Why did continental go along? Where else could they go with that engine?

Posted by: Eric Warren | October 23, 2013 9:43 AM    Report this comment

Cessna's entry into the LSA market was merely a 'token" to appease the light plane industry since up until the early 70's, we all know was the leader of the "Big Three" in light piston aircraft. What happened - my take. The top management at Cessna concluded that the REAL money was in the corporate jet market via the Citation series of small-medium jets. They then put the entire piston line on "back burner" since the ROI was a higher risk (remember product liability?) of the mid 90's? - good reason to focus manufacturing and marketing efforts on the "jet" market? As a result, this left "ZIP" formal dealer structure for the flight school want-a-be, who was "passionate" about aviation, but NOT about profit! Given these well meaning folks who ventured into the most popular method of entering into GA as a "business", were left alone to "fend for themselves". and what you had than was this; "I can fly a J-3 Cub; I can SOLO a Mustang" mentality - or simply; BIG ego's with little if any training in the most basic of business principals, small business OR prior GA business EXPERIENCE - all the hours and ratings in the world doesn't qualify one as a competent manager or marketer. What the LSA COULD have not only done for Cessna, but for the entire light plane industry (HELLO- GAMA!) was to "replace" the 150/152, for example, and CREATE the "embryo " for FUTURE pilots AND aviation consumers - or the "Corolla" (Toyota) of the low end piston line. Basically, The "bottom can" was removed from the shelve decades ago and UNTIL some smart "outside the wingspan" thinkers who have the ability and vision to recognize THIS as the root of the lack of major growth of GA , the industry will follow the path of the "Big Three" auto makers. If properly and professionally marketed, which to date it hasn't, the LSA could be analogist to Japans auto entry into the US markets in the late 60's and early 70's. that said, however, perhaps some SMART investment group such as various members of GAMA, NBAA, ect, will form a coalition and create a STRUCTED "franchise style" flight school model where applicants would have to pass a management/marketing "test' (qualifier) FIRST and FAA flight credentials second, in that order!

Ladies and gentlemen; "the horse is long out of the barn" - the time is NOW to rope it in!

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 23, 2013 10:02 AM    Report this comment

His honesty was massively refreshing. I think there is more to this story than we know.

Perhaps his company is enslaved by some union contract that won't expire for years. Or maybe they are stuck in some dealer relationship they can't exit, making zero profit on pistons.

With current FAA regulations, high U.S. wages., high gasoline prices, and gameboy generations who prefer virtual to real, he may have been pushing us off our clouds but I welcome it.

Posted by: Pete Kuhns | October 23, 2013 10:03 AM    Report this comment

Hello Russ Niles, You wrote: "...where the leadership roles are populated with wide-eyed dreamers..." and "Where would the homebuilt industry be without Vans?"

To the contrary of your linking him in that category, Richard Van Grunsven is one of the most sober minded, down to earth, rational thinkers in the entire aviation community. How much better we would be served if we had multitudes like him.

'OC' Baker

Posted by: Owen C Baker | October 23, 2013 10:10 AM    Report this comment

Mr. Gregory & Others:

The Skycatcher is 'a drag on limited resources for the company' ? I think not. It's a project worth not much more as an afterthought to the Engineering Department, so there is no priority for resources there. The building of the airplane is done in China and final assembly & fitment is done by a third party whose name escapes me (maybe Cessna brought this back in-house; my memory on this kind of news release is sparse at best) so precious few Cessna resources are dedicated to Skycatcher. That being said, with all of this outside labor and oceangoing crating and transportation costs to be paid it's little wonder the profit margins in this $125k+ product are not up to Textron expectations.

I see the issues this way:

- Scott Earnest does not see 'nice' or 'polite' as a job requirement....unless it involves selling a Citation or two. Too bad. There goes the low end of the product line, so 'Good-Bye, SkyCatcher'.

- If SkyCatcher goes away the phrase "so goes Cessna so goes GA" will be gone forever. Cessna has effectively abandoned the General Motors marketing model of having a product for every budget: start 'em off in a Chevy, then sell 'em a Buick, and when they retire sell 'em a Cadillac. But is this necessarily a bad thing? No. How much market is there for trainer/LSA aircraft? Obviously not enough for Cessna, so let it go to someone else. Cessna will no longer be a leader in single engine piston trainers once the C-172 becomes too expensive for the most well-heeled training facility to be able to afford.

- RE: C-172 production rates: Scott Ernest's reply was the right reply. Production isn't necessarily limited to keep prices high, it's limited so as supply meets, but does not exceed, demand. It would take a tremendous increase in demand to justify automation or other cost-reducing schemes to actually LOWER selling prices, and it makes absolutely no sense for the manufacturer to build more that can be sold at the current pricing levels.

Posted by: Tracy Smith | October 23, 2013 10:15 AM    Report this comment

A recent visit to the Cessna website showed the Skyhawk and the Turbo Skylane and 206--but not the normally aspirated airplanes. Does anyone know if the non-turbo 182 and 206 are still offered--or has the product line quietly shrunk further?

Posted by: jim hanson | October 23, 2013 10:23 AM    Report this comment

Rod Beck, I agree with your points. There is a big hurdle in the flight school biz, and that is competing over price with everyone who wants to rent out 172s on price. New pilots, looking at the price, understandably shop price over value.

I am now thinking that will change when someone goes to market with the ability to say that a 172 is unsafe by modern standards and only a nut would choose to learn in one. The problem would be the eruption of protest from the rest of the GA world rushing to defend the 172, even if it were Cessna that was making the claim! It would not matter if the new plane was proven half as likely, or even less to kill its occupants!

We have met the enemy, and he is us.

Posted by: Eric Warren | October 23, 2013 10:33 AM    Report this comment

Pete Kuhns, It's the Cessna Flight Centers that are stuck in their contracts, not Cessna. They have to buy, but Cessna can quit building. The union is another matter. Those contracts are inevitably silly results of silly demands made due to stupid management, bad leadership, and failings of character. No telling what's in one, even if you understand the legalese.

Posted by: Eric Warren | October 23, 2013 10:38 AM    Report this comment

Russ, this is for you & your other Insider colleagues: Especially when the Insider column is full of editorial opinion, you need to place your name alongside the content. Belvoir - and Tim specifically - knows better than that. Place the by-line alongside the headline of the column, just like they teach in Journalism school.

Jack

Posted by: Jack Tyler | October 23, 2013 11:09 AM    Report this comment

Russ Niles, could it be that Scott Ernest is suffering from a "cranky old man's" syndrome? Check out if he is wearing his belt up to his nipples or if he has a stain around the crotch. If he looks normal but remains cranky then he probably married one of my first two wives.

As I write, there are fifty two companies attempting to manufacture and sell their SLSAs worldwide. The Skycatcher going west is leading the formation. Cessna dropping the line is a confirmation of the moribund SLSA industry.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | October 23, 2013 11:17 AM    Report this comment

An interesting performance by a CEO, but better blunt than evasive.

The real issue is much more about consumer expectations. Cars from the 1960's used carburetors, push-rod valve operation, simple distributors and a three-speed transmission. 2013 light planes costing 10 to 15 times as much as modern cars still use 1960's technology.

For example, modern cars now offer self-parking, variable valve timing & sophisticated engine management systems. My brother-in-law (no mechanical genius) part filled my gas tank with diesel -- no problem, the engine management system detected the problem and the factory (GM) just advised, "top the tanks with gas to dilute the diesel and keep driving!" That was 2 years ago and it's running just fine. Tell me which GA aviation engine could produce such a wallet-friendly outcome...

What I'm saying is this. No sensible consumer / investor should buy 1960's Chevy at 2013 Rolls-Royce prices.

If the GA industry wants to move product then they need to look at what happened to Palm -- remember the Palm Treo? -- after the market saw the Apple iPhone. Innovate, or become an answer in a Quiz Show, "whatever happened to...?"

A modern GA plane must as a minimum: carry 2 x US adults plus some bags (call that 600 lb with full tanks), or 2 adults plus 2 children with part fuel; have single-lever engine management, standard GPS and auto-pilot, single control heating/cooling, and robust engine management. I remember that the diesel Cessna 182 maxed out at 11.6 gph in the climb versus 30+ gph for the gas engine. As a buyer, which way am I going to jump?

Improve the product, or GA flying will die at the same time the present crop of pilots retire.

Posted by: Larry Burrows | October 23, 2013 11:18 AM    Report this comment

I agree with the article... we have no idea how many of us need the mass market produced parts that single engine production line work at Cessna provides the whole industry. Take away that line and you have everything going up in cost. Nuts, bolts, wheels, tires...it's all in this together.

The CEO hung his staff out to dry. Wrong. He could have said "We are working on selling the Cessna Skycatchers we have on the ramp, which is a great little plane by the way, and then evaluating where the plane fits our business model. It appears that the FAA has eliminated the Primary category option."

If he had said that, we would have understood.

Posted by: Mark Peterson | October 23, 2013 12:25 PM    Report this comment

Sounds like someone was extremely frustrated and/or received bad news immediately before the media conference...still, no excuse for the apparent contempt shown. There were much better ways of answering those questions, as noted above.

Assuming the Skycatcher program has finished, this needs to trigger a thorough review by industry and all other interested parties. Ideally, an organization like GAMA could assemble a team of "investigators" and conduct a thorough and independent review of the program. Like any accident, there are multiple contributory factors and when they all come together you get this unfortunate outcome (in my opinion). I suspect the "findings" would be incredibly valuable to everyone.

Posted by: Julian O'Dea | October 23, 2013 12:38 PM    Report this comment

He sees a future all right. Russ reported on it himself on September 17, and to quote Mr. Ernest from the article: "It's just another opportunity for us to invest in the future.".

Of course, that particular future has him deluded under the perception that he can break into the establishment military-industrial-complex club with a product they never asked for in the first place, in an age where they want to go pilotless as fast as possible. But, to a bottom-line CEO type without a dream or vision, that's where the money is. I wish him luck. He will need it.

Watching the LSA market waiting for the inevitable correction, this can be no surprise.

I am reminded of speaking with an airline pilot a few years ago at a fuel pump while filling my Wichita spam-can from the 1970s, remarking on his outstanding 540-powered Lancair. To paraphrase his point: "In the future, if you want the airplane you really want, you're going to have to build it yourself. There are otherwise not enough of us to make a viable market". This was maybe 8 years ago, but prescient.

Cessna is not building what I want today. I don't think there is any point waiting for them to do it tomorrow either. Not enough of us left, and too much risk.

Posted by: Steve Cornelius | October 23, 2013 12:44 PM    Report this comment

"Russ, this is for you & your other Insider colleagues: Especially when the Insider column is full of editorial opinion, you need to place your name alongside the content. Belvoir - and Tim specifically - knows better than that. Place the by-line alongside the headline of the column, just like they teach in Journalism school." '

AVweb insider is a blog and it's intended to be commentary and opinion, not straight news. The headline clearly labels it as commentary. Just like they taught us in J-school. And the piece carried a byline, just as it should have.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | October 23, 2013 1:35 PM    Report this comment

Oh NO, Paul... you are doing it all wrong again!

Don't you know that the AvWeb blog (one specific writer springs to mind, immediately) has recently destroyed all of AVweb? Remember, editorial staff hanging from the ceiling fans, zipping hot cables swinging through the air, smoke rising from the building? Debris all over the place!!! I remember my exclusive interview rights with you, you promised!!!

But it says AVweb on top, hence it reflects the opinion of the whole AVweb staff and anyone who's ever dated one of them. That's sooooo bad for AVweb. Uhhmygod! Goddarn it, guys, just the facts, the faaaacts like they taught you all so many years ago!

_____

Its rare to find a levelheaded character like Russ sharing his opinion, but it is appreciated on this lower end of the totem pole. Cessna has just spit GA in the face, not by finally doing the right thing and stomping on this bug of an airplane, but by making such a bold statement and leaving a market that has spent the last several decades proudly advertising Cessna as a GA hero, despite the idiotic price-tags, production in China, and increasing focus on kerosene burning rich man's toys. I for one miss Jack Pelton at the helm of this company, some feeling tells me not so many people would be offended, would have a better understanding of the reasons for scrapping the plane and wouldn't worry so much about the obviously just about pending sale to China. Tact and class ain't prerequisites to be a CEO, neither seems to be the ability to look forward and inspire people who are already down and struggling to breath.

Posted by: Jason Baker | October 23, 2013 2:27 PM    Report this comment

I had a chance to actually see a Skycatcher on display in SDL. What a disappointment. It looked like a 152 with 2 seats only and all the rest of the interior removed. I would have thought Cessna could have designed a better product. Mr Ernest's comments kind of remind me of what GM had been quoted as saying about how their engineering gave up on trying to make a top quality car when designing the Colbalt, and we all know what happened later. Cessna, in relying on their "rich man's" turbine products may end up regretting that attitude in the future when the supply of new pilot starts dry up. After all Cessna once tried the "learn to fly in a Citation" route and look how well that worked.

Posted by: matthew wagner | October 23, 2013 4:32 PM    Report this comment

If the readers have found these comments of interest, I strongly suggest checking out Mike Dempsey's commentary on the LSA issue at get-aviation.com titled: "The Cessna Skycatcher, Light Sport Pilot, and How the Industry Failed a Good Product". posted today!

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 23, 2013 5:15 PM    Report this comment

@Rod Beck. I read your recommended commentary. It is biased.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | October 23, 2013 6:20 PM    Report this comment

Mr. Sienna., Bias or just the truth/facts? May I asked WHAT is your level of experience in GA - aviation consumer (disgruntled?), business person, etc? It seems to me MANY just don't want to get/accept the obvious fundamental problems with GA - GOOD CENT$ABLE BUSINESS!

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 23, 2013 6:37 PM    Report this comment

Mr. Beck, I am an old flight instructor and owner of a flight school. I have been in GA since 1966 and also have owned several business about product design and development, manufacturing and sales in domestic and international markets. I have enough experience to establish the correctness of my statement. Your recommended commentary is biased, it does not hold water.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | October 23, 2013 6:55 PM    Report this comment

Mr. Sierra; Then WHAT is it about my commentary that doesn't make cent$ to you? I also have an aviation business background, CFI, FBO principal. sales manager, airport development, etc - so I guess WE have more or less equal GA experience and from the same generation.. Kindly state WHAT you believe is "incorrect" by your standard - very curious. Thank you! Rod Beck ps As an EXPERIENCED flight school owner as you state, could you tell me WHO is your best prospect? NOTE: This is not a "pass or fail" question!

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 23, 2013 7:16 PM    Report this comment

Geez guys. Can you stop calling each other by last name like a bunch of attorneys on steroids? One says its biased, the other thinks its cooler than red bull on ice. Whoopdidoodledoo! (Pronounced: Whoop De Doodle Doo!) Stop now before this evolves into more genitalia swinging, come back to reality and talk to each other like upright walking adults and pilots. Back to the studio right after this commercial. This free mediation session brought to you by (insert AvWebs biggest sponsor/ advertiser) Remember: Flying connects people, countries and continents. Be nice. Its just a plane.

Posted by: Jason Baker | October 23, 2013 7:33 PM    Report this comment

Dear Mr. Sierra,

What bias would the article I wrote on get-aviation.com regarding the Skycatcher and the LSA failure be? The bias is what? I consider the facts to be hard to swallow by some people, but what explains the current state of flight training? Have you worked as a consultant with flight schools before? If so, I am sure it is evident that the flight schools...in other words, the business of building new pilots for the future, has been failing.

Working with flight schools to grow their business, the facts are that without any marketing and advertising budgets, the goals are hard to attain. The primary reason for being in business is to provide an exceptional product for the price, while maximizing profitability. Show me one successful business that doesn't do this? Apple Computer? Verizon? Harley Davidson? All know the value of marketing to bring in the BEST customer for them, and not just stand around waiting for someone to show up.

Defining the product for its benefits and why the consumer is interested in your product is what it is all about. Cessna can only do so much to promote the product, the bottom tier has to know how to present the product and provide the win/win situation that produces sales.

Posted by: Michael Dempsey | October 23, 2013 7:38 PM    Report this comment

Qualifications: I Own a Chia plant in the shape of an airplane that I raised all by myself!

Posted by: Jason Baker | October 23, 2013 7:50 PM    Report this comment

Hi Jason, Love your humor - thanks for lighting up the situation - and on my "friend" Rafael - HE took the first punch - was only responding in kind! ''Rod"

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 23, 2013 7:52 PM    Report this comment

Yeah, I get it Rod and thanks. Just trying to lighten this up. We need to hold together. Michael makes a great point about professional and market oriented behavior in the flight school industry. I for one do not believe that 23 year old kids looking for a job at a regional will do much to promote a business properly and bring their own customers. God knows there's not much money in American students these days.

Some are of the opinion Cessna produced a egg laying, milk giving, full crispy bacon cow that can sing like a pig with the 162 when in fact it took a relocation to China to attain halfway reasonable pricing. I happen to be one of the ding dongs who got to run a flight-school (CPC) that hat two of these "magic rabbits in a hat" on order and I am glad we got out when we did.

The market is about as bone dry as it gets and shrinking budgets and seeing "no future" isn't the right tone to move a struggling industry forward and upwards. Honesty is all nice and good, but sometimes the product simply doesn't meet the market and then its time to restructure.

Everyone else see's "lots of future" in the market of China - I for one wish we'd keep our sheep closer and our sheepdogs running like crazy, otherwise we will be feeding a monster with our herd. We have a government that makes running any sort of business harder than biting granite, an FAA that isn't filling its shoes and we are watching like cows on the field as one after the other gets led to the slaughterhouse. Product liability and tort reform will fix 50%, good, motivated people who can kick a politician in the bum will do the rest. Talk is cheap, I know. Go to your airport and look right and left. The graybeards and peppered hair guys are what we've got. Get to know them. This Titanic hasn't sunk yet. 15 years in Sales & Marketing and GA in the U.S. is feeling like a desert. Lets change that and our public image, while we're at it.

Posted by: Jason Baker | October 23, 2013 8:07 PM    Report this comment

Thanks Jason! For a minute I thought I was a "Lone Eagle" here. If you care to, you may find my article on March 2012, at get-aviation.com, titled; ,"Aviation Business - Passion or Profit" ?, which may explain my departure (un-approved!) from GA in 1978. Being a business person FIRST and a pilot second, just wasn't compatible with the "pure pilot" types - THERE is life beyond the airport! Today, I do GA business consulting having retired from auto and real estate ventures. Rod ps I'm ONE of the gray (white!) guys! OH, and I remain steadfast on my ORIGINAL comment earlier in the program!

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 23, 2013 8:35 PM    Report this comment

Hope Rafael will come back to the table.

Not sure what we can change, but I am vividly reminded of the Skycatcher being promoted as Cessna's entry level horsy, that would lead a new private pilot from Private to (upgrade to 172/182 presumed) Instrument, then maybe a short stop flying this attractive blonde around in a 208 before venturing into the reality of living the lifestyle as a true aviation pioneer in a Citation X. Well, doh! Obviously that concept didn't pan out and I doubt Mr./ Mrs. "I struggle to solo at 210 hours" will buy the $400K airframe to prove to his/ her wife/ husband that he/she can waste some serious money. Nice try.

Obviously there are thousands of well refurbished C150's & C172 as well as an array of nice sport planes available at incredible prices. The Skyscratcher really leaves no real hole in the market, does it? What does leave a hole is Cessna's overly cold and arrogant way of communicating its departure from a racehorse and market segment that lamed out of the gate, struggled on the go, never reached full speed and didn't overcome Americas natural (and reasonable) objection to having our own airframes built in China. People didn't really bite, with the spin and recovery issues in the beginning, and honestly, who would want a plane in initial training that will have a spin problem?

I think the announcement of "no future" was aimed at GA as a little upset kid stomping its feet because nobody played with its shovel. I hope we won't loose Cessna to China completely. Not just the training world is struggling out there, GA is on the hook. All of us. Good luck?!

Posted by: Jason Baker | October 23, 2013 9:01 PM    Report this comment

To All; The "concept" of LSA wasn't ever really aimed at the "Wright" market - the entry level student regardless of his/'her motivation for a pilots license. Mike Dempse and I shared what we saw as a"missed opportunity" by not only Cessna, but the GA industry as a whole. The original target market,at least many believed, was the aging pilot population with: 1. medical issues 2. HP aircraft no longer needed and a "step down" to a more economical bird.

Rather then "seeing" the obvious, Cessna produced a sub-standard LSA by any standards; not the ideal airplane by any means and certainly not competitive with other LSA alternatives The REAL sleeper, however, was in replacing the 150/152 line (30K+ produced) - WHY - less operating cost than any C-172; you could BUY TWO+ LSA's for every one Skyhawk; check the specs on just about any LSA and you''ll find cabin width EXCEEDING that of the 172 by 3-4 inches, cruise speeds of 100 knts+,, very low stall speeds, and exceptional short field performance and on 4.5-5 gph!

I've flown several LSA birds, but the BEST, and the one which fly's the most like a 172, (easy check-out )is a seldom know LSA; the Storm Rally. Wouldn't have made more cent$ for Cessna to investigate models presently made in Europe or? and buy the rights, move the manufacturing here to the US - and MAKE it here - made in USA - great public relations?

Would the China move then been necessary? Go figure!

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 23, 2013 9:45 PM    Report this comment

When Cessna announced it was going to build a LSA, I believed someone saw the value in pursuing this entry level market and would help winnow out the field. When Cessna came back and said it would be built in China, I got a bad feeling about the project. When the Skycatcher finally made it's appearance at Oshkosh, I was disappointed.

Like someone else mentioned, the design looked rushed and not entirely a well thought out airframe. I have looked at and flown several other LSA's that were clean sheet designs that looked and flew well.

Now to have the CEO come out and bluntly state "that the Skycatcher has no future" does not do those owners and flight schools that bought them any favors. It does make one grateful who was on the fence trying to decide which LSA to purchase, without a doubt.

When I learned to fly in the 90's, I knew I did not want to fly a 1950's airplane and found a flight school using new Diamond DA-20's. By giving up the entry market so quickly, Cessna has made a mistake. How big an impact remains to be seen.

Posted by: Ric Lee | October 23, 2013 9:53 PM    Report this comment

Mr. Dempsey: In 2010, before the AOPA summit at Long Beach, Ca, AOPA's Craig Fuller made an attempt to fix the pilot decline by a so call study that claimed to have found fault in the flight instruction core. According to AOPA, inefficiencies in flight school marketing, equipment and presence, plus their claim that flight instructors were a disincentive encouraged a misconception that all wrongs emanated from the schools and CFIs thus the decline and the drop-out rate. No specific schools or CFIs were identified, it was a blanket accusation made against the approximately 2,000 flight school and 96,000+ flight instructors in the land. Essentially, we were all at fault.

As a fix, AOPA came out with a Student Retention Initiative and the flying club augmentation program with dismal results. Interestedly, since then the private pilot count has decreased, even more, by about 11% down to approximately 188,000 active pilots. The AOPA programs have not work any better than the LSA and Recreational pilot programs. Some individuals continue to believe in this AOPA/EAA failed measures. - but there has been no success as they were and still are fundamentally unrealistic and ill-planned. The relative high cost of flight training and then the relative high cost of recreational flying is the culprit.

And this is the reasoning: In todays dollars, in 1970 a PPL cost about $5,500 and today say it costs about $10,000 - this is an 81% increase. On the other hand, during the same period, the average household income has increased only 6%. Or from $47,000 to $54,000 - Regardless of the passion for flight - eating and housings are first thus less demand than in the 70s.

In short, the skills and assets of flight schools and their flight instructors and independent CFIs have been undervalued by you, AOPA and other that do not perceive the meaning of this simple economic situation. If I were to seek advise from a marketing and business structuring service, I would expect an understanding of my business philosophy by the soliciting service provider. Anything else is biased.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | October 23, 2013 10:57 PM    Report this comment

Erratum: 6% should be approximatele 16

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | October 24, 2013 4:05 AM    Report this comment

With few exceptions, every CEO I have met of a company with more than 500 employees over the past 10 years (and I have had the misfortune to meet many) has come across as a humorless, rude, arrogant, so-and-so. Very often they lack basic social skills such as chewing with your mouth closed. I am not the only one, especially when they have been parachuted in from outside, to wonder just how they got the job, other than being rude and arrogant. Inevitably too, in follow up research, the companies with the r&a bosses do not do so well, while the exceptions do better (Steve Jobs was an exception here, rude and arrogant, although not humorless and able to lead his company onwards and upwards). The conclusion... Have as little to do with the ceo as possible and get your information other ways.

Posted by: John Patson | October 24, 2013 5:10 AM    Report this comment

Here is where this kid quotes the lady in "Airplane" (The Movie) and starts screaming: "I have to get out of here, I have to get out of here!" What John typed makes the most sense to me. The head stinks from the fish. Or sumtin like that. ;o) Happy New Year!

Posted by: Jason Baker | October 24, 2013 6:57 AM    Report this comment

Good Morning Rafeal; I will some it up this way with regards to the "recreational" or social (non-utility) aviator of today - the QUANITY has decreased and the QUALITY increased - and that IT's not cost, as you elude to, the principal reason for the decline in "student starts" today - and in simple "plane" language, the UTILITY (need) value has increased and the WANT (no need) has decreased! The contemporary aviation consumer has just gotten a little smarter! Regards, Rod Beck ps hint - WHO is spending $400K+ for a new Cirrus?

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 24, 2013 8:49 AM    Report this comment

It occurs to me that a good thing to ponder while debating GA's future is the concept of eternal expansion. The world's entire system of commerce is built "on the come", the assumption that there will always be more people, more commerce, more money flowing. Let's have Social Security for all; the endlessly expanding population will support the debt we are assuming, and so on.

One day not so far in the future it will no longer be possible to ignore that this is an inherently unsustainable model to base our civilization on, and the required readjustment will be profound and painful. I submit that GA has already reached that point.

For entry level and low-end GA, expansion has ended forever. This means it is pointless to fantasize about building mass market, low priced airplanes. The future of small GA airplanes, whatever form it takes, will consist of maintaining a total fleet size that at best is no larger, and more likely smaller, than the current one. No plane in every garage, no flying cars, no low-cost mass market anything.

Posted by: John Wilson | October 24, 2013 9:51 AM    Report this comment

His attitude represents the fundamental problem in GA...that it is progressively becoming an elitist activity as it is in much of the world. Certainly, the revenues at Cessna derive primarily from the elite. Apparently he's a numbers guy and gets that. As a non-pilot, he's not clouded with emotional ties to the student or the family traveler and small business flyer who values a piston single above all possessions.

That's the bad news. The good news is Cessna is leaving the door open for innovators; companies like Pipistrel who appear able to break the rules and create something actually disruptive. GA needs massive change and it's not reasonable to expect it to suddenly come from an old established player which is clearly focused on the 1%....or the top 10% of the 1%.

Posted by: Jonathan Micocci | October 24, 2013 10:01 AM    Report this comment

At the end of the day why would anyone buy a 125k LSA when you can get a great used Cessna 172 or PA28 for around 30k? It is the LSA business model that it flawed. The average consumer isn't going to invest well over 125k at the entry level for a product that is sub-standard versus normally certified aircraft. Produce a LSA that can be purchased new for under 50k, one that has normal handling qualities, and the market will materialize.

Posted by: Jacob Hoffman | October 24, 2013 10:11 AM    Report this comment

Cessna is going the way of AOPA. There is no large profit in light aircraft or a bloated organization which says it represents GA. Some may differ but the whole LSA concept is a disaster. 1320 max gross weight with LSA flight limitations makes these airplanes overpriced toys. Some may argue but the medical issue is the only real reason for LSAs. I really do not have an answer except reducing FAA 3rd class medical requirements which will never happen. The cost has limited the little guy from learning to fly. My last instrument student spent $9000 for the rating. $600,000 single engine airplanes surely put GA out of reach for most people. GA will soon be only be available to the very rich and those who build their own. On the positive side I flew in my friends RV-10 the other day; 170 kts cruise and fantastic climb performance.

Posted by: Patrick McBurnett | October 24, 2013 10:31 AM    Report this comment

To Rafeal Sierra, how does one explain Sporty's excellent record of student retention? To Jacob Hoffman, I believe there are many who would prefer a new, clean sheet design with a wider cabin, better climb rate, modern avionics over a 1950's design aircraft. It's why the wife and I decided to buy a Diamond DA-20 to fly while building our dream experimental.

There are people out there that can afford a new LSA and just have not had it presented to them properly. It is mainly a question of marketing, IMO. I do not discount the "snob" factor in driving potential pilots away from GA. A friend of mine who is a 900 commercial pilot was invited to a Cirrus open house along with me. He is the perfect customer for a Cirrus as he owns his own business and makes enough money to buy one. We arrived at the open house ready to fly a new Cirrus and were treated very poorly and not offered a demo flight. Needless to say, my friend will never consider owning a Cirrus! He wound up in a partnership in a 1967 Mooney instead.

Aviation businesses must stop these self inflicted wounds.

Posted by: Ric Lee | October 24, 2013 11:05 AM    Report this comment

To Ric Lee, (and other interested parties) I KNOW your enjoy our "no non-cent$ views and conclusions on the BUSINESS of GA - look us up at a get-aviation.com - Tons of articles on the many dysfunctional aspects of WHY this industry is failing - and it's own worst enemy! Regards, Mike Dempsey & Rod Beck - YOUR comments (on our site) are welcomed!

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 24, 2013 11:34 AM    Report this comment

Russ, your admission that aviation journalism is not a hardball affair and that it functions mostly to convey the latest and greatest is an understatement. The aviation press functioning as a cheerleader rather than a conveyor of unvarnished facts and news renders a disservice to the industry, allowing for example the former stewards of the venerable Hawker to get away with pulling the rug out from Hawker owners last year with many in the aviation industry not even becoming aware of that travesty.

If the aviation press would serve the industry with true journalism the OEMs and service providers would be held more accountable and we in the industry would in turn be less encumbered by nauseating hype, smoke and mirrors, and even perhaps bad ideas like the Skycatcher.

John Kliewer

Posted by: John Kliewer | October 24, 2013 11:43 AM    Report this comment

@Ric Lee: you probably read the Airfacts column by the flight school manager where he claims 100% success. Remember that Sporty's is a strong pilot supply retailer and has the capital and customer connections nationwide to support a flight training entity - Most flight school do not have the financial backing nor do they have national exposure. So they have this going for them. They have about seven aircraft and claim success in the LSA and Recreational training curricula - since I have not seen their student roster I have no idea as to what their numbers are however, since these two are extremely small markets compared to the PPL market, claiming braking a flight training industry barrier with a 100% efficiency is not saying much. There are about 4,500 LSA pilots after the program started 8 years ago, thats less than 600 certificates per year. Half of the holders are older than 54 years of age and simply converted to the LSA considering the medical alternative. The Recreational program has produced about 350 pilots in over 15 years - perhaps 20 - and it is not worth discussing as everything about it is dead. At the end, Sporty's may be the exception claiming 100% student retention and completion. My school can only claim about a 98% student retention and completion. We may be an exception as well.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | October 24, 2013 12:50 PM    Report this comment

@Patrick McBurnett: "Cessna is going the way of AOPA. There is no large profit in light aircraft or a bloated organization which says it represents GA. Some may differ but the whole LSA concept is a disaster. ".

Patrick, I agree with you and I would add that the industry was only too easy to accept the flawed LSA strategy and encouraged half baked practices into the mix taking flight school and others for a ride. Credible flight instructors got on the band wagon announcing the miracle GA cure. When all this it started I was curious but resisted buying an LSA as I was not convinced that it was a good investment vs the C150s and C172s I operated. The hype was strong and it created a frenzy. My hangar landlord was convinced it would increase old business and bring in new. He wanted an LSA in the hangar compound and insisted that I get one. I said no, and as a result he gave me a 30 day notice to vacate the hangar. We are friends now and under a better understanding but it upset me. So to those who came out with the "disaster" I say...you owe me one.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | October 24, 2013 4:34 PM    Report this comment

"To ALL - including Rafael",

The LSA concept was mismanaged from "day one"! More so with regard with a well DEFINED marketing strategy . For those "down" on LSA; at least in a\ the training environment. I would like to cite an example of a FL based flight school that presently has the Skycatcher on their flight line. The bird rents for about $120/hr (a little low) - AND at last count was flying around 100 hours/month! The same operator also has the "discount special" (low end) C-152 for $20 LESS per hour. This bird is averaging 20-25 hours/month. What's WRONG with this picture? Keep in mind the "budget" minded student, or clever one, could take much of his/her training in the 152, and then SWITCH to the Skycatcher just prior to meeting "solo" requirements with minimum dual time in type, right? If COST is the factor here, then WHY is the Skycatcher flying roughly 4 TIMES more than the LESS costly 152??? VALUE, modern bird/equipment, etc? This operator believed that the Skycatcher was "diverting" customers away from the 172's - who cares - their flying $$$ aren't they! To MANY 172s' - solution - SELL one off and REPALCE it with another LSA, duh ! NOT a Skycatcher - maybe a Sport Cruiser or?

-If this REAL world example isn't PROOF that "an" LSA is appealing, I'm from a different planet! DO YOU FLIGHT SCHOOL OPERATORS GET THIS?

if a prospective "flight school want-a be" came to me today and asked what I (or Mike) would recommend regarding a "fleet mix" (start-up operation) and the local demographics would JUSTIFY (demand) a flight school (150K+ population - 5% household income in excess of $250K in a middle-upper-middle class community/city), I would insist an LSA (NOT a Skycatcher) was in their fleet. WHY? The LSA can be used as the entry for ANY certificate, LSA, Private, or Commercial. If the LSA doesn't meet the customers NEED. i.e 4 place C-17, etc, a mere 2 hr or so check-out is all that's required, OR they can complete the Private in any "upsell" bird of choice in your fleet. You, OFFER a choice to the prospective student; "recommend" the LSA and see if they really like it. Key selling points; completion time about 60% of the Private - say 30-90 days (today EVERYONE's in a hurry) AND if the cost is a factor, about HALF of the Private too! Bet your "bottom dollar" they'll go to the competitor across the field who DOESN'T have an LSA to compare; but guess who they'll come back to?

I rest my case.

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 24, 2013 7:07 PM    Report this comment

Rod, I completely agree with your post. At the time I took my flight lessons, Utah Valley State College (now Utah Valley University) had 6 brand new Diamond DA-20 A1's. They were flying so often that I would fly one on a Monday that had 50 hours to go for it's 100 hour inspection and by Friday it would be off the schedule getting the 100 hour. I would guess that these Diamonds were flying more than the C150's and C172's than three or four of the local flight schools.

If I were opening a flight school I would have several LSA's in the mix (no Skycatchers) and some reconditioned legacy aircraft. My instructors would be enthusiastic about whatever plane they were instructing in or they would be looking for another job!

Posted by: Ric Lee | October 24, 2013 7:30 PM    Report this comment

Ricl Thanks for seeing "the forest for the trees"! I LOVE YOUR STYLE! It's people like you who "get it" that the GA BUSINESS needs! Kindly,or ANYONE (for reality) can contact me @rodbeck@optimum.net . And you too, Rafael ! ps Sorry, no rose colored glasses or wiped cream here!

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 24, 2013 7:47 PM    Report this comment

No kidding just today a honest Cessna dealer came up to me and asked what are my flight training rates. I work at a LSA importer, dealer, and flight school and he drove up while I was by the fence untying one of the aircraft. He has a potential non-pilot customer who want to get his license and this Cessna dealer felt that he would be doing his customer a disservice for him to start his primary training in a Cessna, he doesn't want the customer to become frustrated with the larger aircraft and lose the salet! While our aircraft are not IFR rated, it does has EFIS and he can go through primary training and Instrument with us. I tried for years to get a checkout in a Skycatcher just to be able to get a first hand experience so I can make a true comparison between all the different LSA models. I went to three Cessna dealers and they all try to talk me out of it, I never got to fly one. The CEO is correct that there is no business model for the aircraft. I have experience with trying to get products manufactured in China, not my choice but the company I worked for. Just the time alone the product spends on the water is a big profit loser. When Cessna announced that the were going to build a plane there, I knew it wasn't going to work for them, my old comments still can be found on the internet. The only one who made out in this deal is China because Cessna gave them the technology and design for a small aircraft tailored made for their country, they have a good business model. The Skycatcher would have been a success if it was made here in the US and promoted by the dealers. Our LSAs are selling well with some customers already looking to trade up after only 2 or 3 years because of the improvement in the avionics that are offered in the new models. Its no just old men buying these LSA, we have plenty of high school boys and girls taking lessons.

Posted by: Thomas Conte | October 24, 2013 11:26 PM    Report this comment

"... didn't overcome Americas natural (and reasonable) objection to having our own airframes built in China. ". Is that the reason that Apple sells only sells millions of devices a month? Could they be selling millions more if they weren't made in China? Face it, folks; an American brand can be made anywhere and consumers really don't care.

But they do care about price and build quality. American made delivers the latter. Can it deliver the former? Apparently China can. So to bellyache about the product price, and then complain about Cessna choosing the low cost producer - go figure the logic in that.

Posted by: Chris Moon | October 24, 2013 11:50 PM    Report this comment

The LSA rules guarantee disaster by limiting weight to an unworkable low level. No two-place airplane built to those weight limits can have adequate utility, durability, or crash safety. Any used FAR 23 2-place will provide far better value. The Skycatcher was a half-baked airplane with an embarrassing name. It won't be missed. The revelation that only 20 have been delivered after all this time is proof enough that it is a total failure. Earnest certainly could have softened the blow, but he didn't. It musty be assumed, then, that he is a short-timer.

On the main subject, Earnest's comments were astoundingly unprofessional and tone-deaf. He has shown himself to be just another clueless, carpetbagging CEO with no feel for General Aviation, Business Aviation, or the emerging light aircraft market realities. Furthermore, his little Light Attack jet boondoggle is embarrassingly naive. His departure would be good news, except that he has spent his tenure running off most of the older, knowledgeable people who built Cessna up after the 1980s industry meltdown. Textron has never understood Cessna or GA, so it would be a miracle if the next CEO is any better.

Russ Meyer, the last capable leader at Cessna, must be shaking his head. Those of us who knew the company when he ran it are appalled at what Textron has done to it after he retired.

Posted by: S. Lanchester | October 25, 2013 12:26 AM    Report this comment

Mr. Sierra, you raised one of my favorite points. It seems to me the problem has a lot to do with schools often having no other income these days. Around the late seventies it seems that the schools stopped being the primary dealers of aircraft. Do you think this has had an effect? Also, the loss of good destination airports (those where you can land and do something entertaining without renting a car) seems to be a big issue to me. Crew cars are rare, and airports near town centers have all been moved out or simply destroyed without replacement. Lastly, don't you think costs would be reduced with more volume? Thanks in advance.

Posted by: Eric Warren | October 25, 2013 1:50 AM    Report this comment

Eric, you are correct, schools have students that could become airplane owners and including aircraft sales within the schools business is a definite advantage for both parties. The Beech, Piper and Cessna dealership networks of old changed and so did aircraft sales and not for the better. However, schools or CFIs can still negotiate with some dealers for sales commissions or arrange for a finder's fee. Nothing wrong with selling used aircraft out of flight schools, especially now. Good suggestion.

I fly out of the Palm Springs CA area and regardless of the direction of flight all airports have some interesting feature. I try to finish legs wherever there is a good toilet and at least a so-so restaurant. Where I am based the FBO still has a loaner car - but there are less available now than in the 70s.

Now comes the "more volume" part. Aircraft need to be flown beyond the break even point. Depending on the aircraft's fixed and variable expenses this BEP could be 25, 30 or 40 hours per month. The more billable hours flown the better the spread of fixed expenses and in turn the lower the rental price and in turn this makes for more business. Add to this a happy, courteous and well informed and experienced flight instructor - success around the corner.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | October 25, 2013 4:37 AM    Report this comment

Rafeal; YES, I agree, as you mentioned, relating to high fixed costs which in turn creates higher BEP, inherently characteristic of any aspect of aviation. I have found, about 18+hours on your generic C-172, (nationally) are needed, excluding debt service and administrative costs, just to BEP! Now throw in a high fee/rent by the airport authority for space - you can't run an FBO or flight school at the "mall"! This makes for a challenge even for the most astute business person! If ANY flight school is not flying each bird at least 50+ hours/month, I doubt their making any money!

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 25, 2013 7:27 AM    Report this comment

If the flight schools can't make a good business model based on the Skycatcher, then I say there is no future for it. If I am going to spend that much money to own an airplane, I want something that I can put some baggage in and GO PLACES. There are a lot of really nice used airplanes you can get for that kind of money. Otherwise, you may as well by a used 150/152 for $20K or less.

Here is a tip for all you flight school owners - Make more of your curriculum about coaching the student on how to own an airplane. Help them with the search process on the used market. Teach them how to avoid gotchas like 'fresh annuals'. Teach them how to identify funny stuff in the logbooks and things to look for during a pre-buy. Teach them about co-ownership arrangements. Teach them about what maintenance the owner can do themselves and what kinds of owner-assisted maintenance may be possible.

Maybe more of this would help reduce the amount of gray hair I see at the airport.

Posted by: Steve Bowling | October 25, 2013 9:33 AM    Report this comment

I agree. EAA has a new Eagles program inviting young adults to come join the friendly skies. We seriously need to fill the ranks with new entries younger than 30 as the majority of active pilots average 45 or older.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | October 25, 2013 9:54 AM    Report this comment

If "rude" is SOP for CEOs, then I submit that "failure" is the inevitable result of rude CEOs; either the company fails under the rude CEO's non-leadership, or the rude CEO fails when the board realizes it's time to return to civilization. "Rude" shouldn't "fly" with Cessna or any other company. The bottom line of any company's success is to please its customers; "rude" doesn't please anyone.

Posted by: Cary Alburn | October 25, 2013 10:07 AM    Report this comment

Eric and others; Nothing new on aircraft sales - MOST flight schools are missing this opportunity - so here go's!

A "stand alone" (single profit center) flight school, is at best, a financially marginal venture. Most schools, who already have developed a "loyalty" by way of the satisfied student/customer at the training level, have, "in their mitts", a potential LTC here. If flight training IS your only source of income, the LTCV ( Life Time Customer Value), is expired", for the most part, upon license completion; LSA or Private, in say, one year or less.

That said, however, assuming this student IS a buyer for a "pre-owned" C-172, Archer, Cheetah, OR ?, an additional income is derived from either a broker commission or possibly selling one of your fleet aircraft. Have a maintenance shop; now that aircraft owner becomes a service customer; have fuel too - now add fuel or storage to the list; the LTCV is extended further. This is the IDEAL evolution and retention (progression) of the aviation consumer for the small FBO/flight school of today - just not enough profit from flight training and not to mention the unpredictable buying behavior of recreational flyers.

So, train, sell, maintain, fuel, store* - FOUR profit centers = LTCV of 5-10 years - or more?

* Your airport operating agreement, ideally, permits you the ability to perform ALL of these services whether you implement them immediately or in the future.

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 25, 2013 10:14 AM    Report this comment

In regards to CEO versus pilot...one can debate both sides of the coin all day long.

Having walked the path from line boy, at a flight school, to Director at a large turbine management company, and air show announcer, I think our industry has a larger problem, related to entry.

We don't lack for people who can afford to enter GA...we lack for people who want to. I'm 53, and caught some awesome times, being initially based at Santa Paula, which was considered the antique aircraft capital of the world by many aviation writers. In-short; it was very cool, to the point Steve McQueen choose Santa Paula as his final place to call home.

Being cool was contagious, made a scene, and became cult like...and it fed the fury of general aviation. Today; I go out to an airport an somebody wants to sell me virtual terrain following. I didn't get into this to follow virtual terrain...my eight year old does that at home. Yes; I do appreciate technology, but I'll take the sound of a Mustang, over whatever the latest navigation gadget is...that's why I got into aviation, and probably most of you.

Ferrarri, MBZ AMG, BMW M series, and all the other excess automotive folks, sell plenty of cars today, so one can tell me there are not customers for cool, heart thumping product. Much of the automotive product has taken what we used to hold as 'cool' and placed it into their machines, while we went out and homogenized our industry, under the guise of broadening our customer base. How did that go?

We need to rethink from our hearts and souls...and we can turn this.

Posted by: Greg Andrews | October 25, 2013 2:26 PM    Report this comment

Greg; Today's "'pilot" is a high tech - low touch guy/gal - "COOL" is now gadgetry - gone is the "stick and rudder" aviator! A little over two years ago, I had a very nice Grumman Trainer (AA-1B) which I had painted in a post WW II Bearcat (F8F) scheme and thought this would attract a few renters until which time I sold it. I did a "direct mailer" to about 1,000 area pilots from Private and up - NADA response - except ONE! Back in 71-72, this was the "IN"bird as I had three in my training fleet at (TEB) here in NJ. Six pack panel - to "basic" perhaps?

This bird, if anyone out there has flown it, was a "pilots" airplane - YOU flew it - OR it would fly you! However, the gent that bought it several months later LOVED it - only flew C-172's and Cherokee's, About your age (51) and possibly the last of a breed?

So much for change, wants and needs!

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 25, 2013 3:26 PM    Report this comment

"Today's "'pilot" is a high tech - low touch guy/gal - "COOL" is now gadgetry - gone is the "stick and rudder" aviator!"

Yes...and no. There are plenty of young and old pilots out there who look toward glass cockpits before basic instrumentation. But there are also still pilots out there who fly for the fun of it and do their best to become one with the machine.

However, I think the needs of pilots has changed, and that's really why GA is declining. Sure, I got in to flying for the fun of it (and still fly because I enjoy it), but I do primarily use my aircraft for transportation, which all but requires an advanced GPS and cockpit weather to safety and reliably fly IFR. My needs simply aren't met by a basic VFR-only aircraft, and my pockets not deep enough to own two planes (one for traveling, and one for fun).

With cheap airline travel available, and the reliability and durability of today's cars, plus the cost of avgas and hangar (or tie-down) rental (at least in the northeast, where I'm based), VFR-only aircraft just don't cut it for many. Perhaps if the 162 could be legally flown IFR, it would have found a larger market to compete with the 150/152. It also didn't help that the 162 wasn't exactly the easiest plane to get in and out of, even compared to several other LSAs. I think it might have been a victim of trying to be too many things, without excelling at any one particular task.

As far as rude CEOs go, I feel it does no one a service, and the last thing GA needs is for a CEO of a GA manufacturer to give the impression that they don't care for the low-end of the spectrum. After all, the only way to capture the largest amount of people to enter in to GA is to provide affordable and reasonably-equipped training/entry-level aircraft. And the only remotely matching segment of the low-end affordable aircraft is the LSA.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | October 25, 2013 3:42 PM    Report this comment

"At the end of the day why would anyone buy a 125k LSA when you can get a great used Cessna 172 or PA28 for around 30k?"

I suppose it's the same reason that someone would buy a new 172 for 300k or more when it really doesn't have any more capability than a 40k model. 1) It's a new airframe, engine and avionics. 2)They have the means to do so.

Why do people care? Sounds like a lot of sour grapes to me.

Posted by: jay Manor | October 25, 2013 4:43 PM    Report this comment

Ernest has shown his true colors. Time for him to go.

Posted by: Joe Blythe | October 25, 2013 4:43 PM    Report this comment

Gary; As I said earlier - the "concept" of the LSA was fine - the marketing was totally inept - along with a poor example of Cessna's idea of a LSA. Personally, I don't think ANY LSA with boots, radar, G-1000, etc (satire) would have had ANY potential in the IFR market. That said, Cessna produced 32K+ 150/152's from 1959-1986. The "natural" replacement was some semblance of an LSA - and it WASN"T the Skycatcher, for sure! Take a look at some other "wizards of smart"-Piper - they branded the Sport Cruiser - sales zoomed and then dropped it - HELLO! If I were a top exec at Cirrus, I would have bought the Sport Cruiser, manufactured it HERE in the US, great PR - MADE IN AMERICAN - and had a low/entry level bird to open up "Cirrus Flite Centers" in select demographic markets nationally. This would mirror Cessna's "Learn to fly in a Cessna - BUY a Cessna" theme of the 60's and 70's, plus the low wing Sport Cruiser is a perfect fit to "upsell" into the SR-20, then SR-22? OBJECTIVE: Develop brand loyalty at the "embryo" (student) stage; "as the old saying goes; your BEST customer is the one who's been previously sold! Comments anyone?

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 25, 2013 4:48 PM    Report this comment

Have a 182 love it thought all things cessna would be great value bought the wife a 162 at 111,000 to learn in . It's a little light to learn in the insurance is twice the cost of my 182. I use the 162 as a hamburger plane do to fuel burn also far ease to pull in and out if your going to bore holes in the sky . I do enjoy flying the plane and the vis is great also has enought speed for short trips. Stopping a plane at 1360 pounds was a dumb move by all .The price increase to 150,000 was a killer to the plane .Having learned in a 150 started my love connection with all things from the big C as great practical planes . I fear this will now be a thing of the past thank you very much mr. Non pilot CEO and of course Texron also.....sell the company now and run.

Posted by: Len Blair | October 25, 2013 10:41 PM    Report this comment

Have a 182 love it thought all things cessna would be great value bought the wife a 162 at 111,000 to learn in . It's a little light to learn in the insurance is twice the cost of my 182. I use the 162 as a hamburger plane do to fuel burn also far ease to pull in and out if your going to bore holes in the sky . I do enjoy flying the plane and the vis is great also has enought speed for short trips. Stopping a plane at 1360 pounds was a dumb move by all .The price increase to 150,000 was a killer to the plane .Having learned in a 150 started my love connection with all things from the big C as great practical planes . I fear this will now be a thing of the past thank you very much mr. Non pilot CEO and of course Texron also.....sell the company now and run.

Posted by: Len Blair | October 25, 2013 10:41 PM    Report this comment

If this had been the Public Relations employee acting in this manner, they would of found a termination notice on their desk when returning to the office following the convention.

Posted by: Jonathan McKinnon | October 25, 2013 10:51 PM    Report this comment

"Car Guys vs Bean Counters" by Bob Lutz. Different industry, same attitude. Aviation and automobiles are two industries that I am personally passionate about, and the inclusion of the "beancounter" mentality has been well-documented in the automobile industry. It causes certain death. It will happen in aviation as well. Afer all, engineers and product planners are people too, and when they're not excited, their products are boring and uninspiring.

Indeed, Textron and their Six Sigma/MBA-think/passionless processes need to part ways with the GA industry. Maybe it's ok when they're building such other exciting products as golf carts, lawn mowers and wire. I now better understand why Pelton left.

It's just that this mindset won't work so well when applied to aviation. Worst part is that it will probably be the Chinese who buy the GA portion of Cessna (TXT will keep the defense side 'cause those are REAL airplanes).

Posted by: Jim Taylor | October 26, 2013 11:13 AM    Report this comment

This is what keeps Scott Ernest as Cessna's CEO; "Cessna recorded $3.1 billion in revenue for 2012, an increase from $3 billion in the prior year, and profits totaled $82 million, up from $60 million. The company delivered 181 Citation jets during 2012."

The Skycatcher pales into insignificance.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | October 26, 2013 12:53 PM    Report this comment

TO Rafael, Great REALITY post! And THAT is what a competent CEO's first priority is to its stock/stake holders - ROI - pilot or no pilot - like it or not. Never mind the "gross" - check the return numbers. "Personalities" aside, (typical corporate drone) stereo type kind of dude, If YOU were an investor in Textron, would you "like" Mr. Ernest any better?

Perhaps his NOT being a "pilot" (perceived?) he was able to think ABOVE the neck (rationally) and not BELOW the waist (emotionally) or simply not intoxicated or influenced by the "romance" of airplanes?

Posted by: Rod Beck | October 26, 2013 6:51 PM    Report this comment

And nothing changed and everything stayed the same and the world continued turning and Mr. Earnest earned money hand over fist being just the way he is. Ha! Smile for your daily greeting from the groundhog. Imagine it waving at you with a big fat smile, right from its groundhog bunker.

Posted by: Jason Baker | October 27, 2013 4:17 PM    Report this comment

Things are not the same, my airport ramp is empty.....

Posted by: Ronald Rounds | November 20, 2013 3:47 AM    Report this comment

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