Cessna has chosen the Chinese-government owned Shenyang Aircraft Corp. to build the Model 162 Skycatcher. Earlier this week, Cessna announced it would be building the Light Sport Aircraft offshore. In a news release, Cessna CEO Jack Pelton said the company needed top quality at a competitive price and SAC put it all together. “Our solution is to partner with SAC, a company with excellent facilities, state-of-the-art technologies and a workforce highly experienced in aircraft manufacturing. SkyCatcher customers will get an advanced design, high-quality workmanship and world-class product support, all at an affordable price from Cessna, a brand known and trusted worldwide.” According to a story in the Wall Street Journal, building the Skycatcher in China knocks $71,000 off the price compared to building it in the U.S. The other issue is plant capacity. There is no room in Cessna’s Wichita or Independence plants to turn out the 700 Skycatchers per year that Cessna envisions. The move, coupled with Cessna’s acquisition of Columbia Aircraft has dominated Cessna’s profile in recent months as it continues to pile up record sales for its business jets.
SAC is better known for its activities in jet aircraft and whether this is a foot in the door for future projects seems likely from the comments made by the head of SAC. “SAC greatly values the cooperation with Cessna, and sees Cessna as a significant partner in the general aviation segment. Since the start of the cooperation between the two companies that began in 2003, a good foundation has been established,” said Chairman and President, Mr. Luo Yang of SAC. “The communications and exchange of visits between the management of our two companies have strengthened the trust and understanding, which leads to today’s signing of the Model 162 contract, making SAC the sole source supplier of this great airplane.” SAC has been building aircraft-mostly for the Chinese military-since 1951 and has entered into joint projects with a number of Western companies, including Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier.