Cessna’s Rise


In my experience, “keynote speech” is sedative by another name. I will confess to having snoozed through more than one of these, with my eyes open and evidence that I actually scribbled notes to write about my waking moments. But Jack Pelton’s address to the Aircraft Electronic Association meeting in Dallas was a cut above the usual snoozer and had one line in it that caught my attention.

With GA getting bashed from every quarter, Pelton and Cessna have taken it upon themselves to seize the day and begin promoting both the industry and the company as a means of finding a way out out of the woods. No one’s better postioned to do that, so kudos to Cessna for taking it on. As Pelton was describing all of this, he said something to the effect that as Cessna rethinks what it does, maybe it will conclude that what it really is is a transportation company, not just an airplane company. To that effect, it’s already retooled the way it sells airplanes, approaching customers with solutions for getting from A to B, rather than just as airplane buyers.

Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but this is the stuff of corporate evolution that separates the survivors from those whose bleached bones litter the industrial landscape. A “for instance”? GM thinks it’s still a car company. My gut feel is that Cessna not only senses were in the midst of a seismic change, but it can and is pivoting to adjust to a new reality. I think Cessna knows that when the economy does recover, the aircraft manufacturing world won’t look like it did in 2007. It will be dramatically different.

That’s why I’m happy to see Cessna stepping up. Not for nothing has this company been in continous business for eight decades, with an essentially unbroken thread of product support. The Cessna of 2015 or 2025 won’t look like the Cessna of today, I’d be willing to bet. Other companies that compete with Cessna now will not exist. But even if Wichita is a pile of charred, windblown sticks, Cessna will still be doing business in some form.

And for that, we can all be grateful in a season where there’s not much to be grateful about.