Textron is in the process of restructuring its Cessna Pilot Center (CPC) network, including cutting back on the number of CPCs and putting more focus on its Cessna Flight Training System digital interactive flight-training curriculum. “As a part of a new strategy to expand the reach of the Cessna curriculum to student pilots,” Textron told AVweb, “the network of CPCs is transitioning to an exclusive group of flight schools that meet heightened qualifications.”
Until recently, the Cessna Flight Training System has only been available to students at Cessna Pilot Centers. “This shift enables us to expand accessibility to the curriculum beyond the CPC network. Flight schools outside of the network may purchase the curriculum for their student pilot training programs. Other CPC benefits remain exclusive to the network,” the company said. CPC benefits also include credits toward aircraft purchases, parts discounts and free admission to instructional seminars.
In order to implement its new CPC system, Textron is ending partnerships with quite a few of its more than 160 CPCs. Several flight schools that will no longer be participating in the program, including one that has been a CPC since 1998, told AVweb that given the expense of new aircraft and parts, they are now having to look into options offered by other manufacturers. In addition, one school pointed out, they will be unable to use any CPC-branded materials, signs or advertisements they may have had for the school. The number of schools that will continue as CPCs has not yet been confirmed.
Current CPCs have expressed excitement about the direction of the program, particularly when it comes to the digital interactive flight-training curriculum. “The prior focus appeared to be on the marketing of the Cessna name, but that focus has since progressed to an excellent product that allows students to study on their own time, allowing the time spent with the instructor to be a reinforcement of topics,” said Aaron Repp, chief flight instructor of CPC Jet Air Inc., which has facilities in Iowa and Illinois.
The shift in how it handles CPCs is the latest in a series of changes to Cessna’s approach to its piston aircraft. Textron announced earlier in May that it will stop producing the diesel Skyhawk JT-A. The announcement came less than a year after the aircraft was certified. The TTx high-performance single met the same fate in February. According to GAMA, Cessna sold 129 Skyhawks last year, which, although historically on the low end, still kept it as a top seller of training aircraft ahead of everyone except for Cirrus. So far in 2018, the company has sold just 13 Skyhawks compared to 20 in the first quarter of 2017.