|Making the case for building the SkyCatcher in China|
|7 Dec 2007 4:50 PM||by Tom Aniello|
|Tags: Response, Released, Manufacturing, Facility, engineering, comments, Cessna Skycatcher, Cessna Brand, ASTM|
Since Cessna's announcement in late November that the new SkyCatcher would be assembled in China, we have received many comments from people obviously very passionate about flying and what the Cessna brand means to them. Through this blog, by e-mail, by phone, and by regular mail, many people have lauded Cessna's foresight, and to be frank, an equal number have taken us to task.
Much of the feedback we heard was emotionally charged, and that's understandable given how emotion is a big part of the reason many of us enjoy the freedom of flight. However, a great many remarks appeared to be based on incomplete or inaccurate information. While we certainly don't expect to convince everyone that the decision to build the SkyCatcher in China was the right thing to do, we thought you might appreciate some additional insight into Cessna's business decision to do so.
First and foremost, it needs to be understood that the SkyCatcher will be designed, tested, constructed, and serviced to the same Cessna quality standards that enabled us to become the world’s largest manufacturer of general aviation airplanes. Cessna backs the SkyCatcher completely, the same as any other aircraft we produce. We have complete confidence that Shenyang Aircraft Company (SAC) will build the SkyCatcher to Cessna’s rigorous standards for safety, quality, reliability, value, and performance. So much so, that we are putting Cessna’s brand on the aircraft and our reputation behind it.
The global aerospace industry, regardless of country of origin, is one of the most highly regulated for quality and safety. China is not exempt from these rules. Cessna engineers, based in Wichita, are conducting the complete design for the SkyCatcher, and will be responsible for all ASTM compliance work. In addition, Cessna employees will be on-site at SAC to oversee manufacturing, quality assurance and technical design. Make no mistake; this will be a Cessna aircraft.
SAC was chosen to manufacture the SkyCatcher only after an exhaustive global search that included every region of the U.S. Our requirements were simple, but aggressive: produce a high-quality aircraft, in very large volumes, which conforms to global safety and performance standards. In addition, to allow the product to be priced competitively in its category, we needed a partner willing to make a significant investment in manufacturing infrastructure.
SAC came out on top in all areas of measure. They offer proven aviation expertise and the capacity Cessna needs to deliver up to 700 SkyCatchers each year. In business since 1951, SAC has a long history of producing complete aircraft and major assemblies for the global aviation industry’s largest manufacturers, including Boeing, Airbus, IAI, and Bombardier.
Like most consumer products today, it’s difficult to classify a product as being from a single source country. Is a Toyota Tundra manufactured by U.S. workers in San Antonio, Texas, a Japanese automobile? Is Harley-Davidson an all-American motorcycle even though components are sourced from the U.S., Mexico, China, Japan and Australia? The SkyCatcher was designed in the U.S. and will be assembled in China primarily from U.S.-sourced components, including the engine and avionics. The market for manufactured goods has truly become global for nearly everything we purchase today. It applies to automobiles, televisions, aircraft, clothing and a myriad of other goods. And that’s a good thing, because it provides value which consumers demand, and the business relationships help improve political stability throughout the world.
Many people expressed concern that Cessna would be taking valuable jobs and sending them outside of the United States. While it seemed to go unnoticed amongst all the recent news events, Cessna announced in November that we will be adding 1,500 new jobs at our U.S.-based facilities in 2008. This represents a 10% increase in our global workforce. The biggest challenge we face today as a corporation is filling this demand for qualified employees.
The importance of the success of the SkyCatcher to the U.S.-led aviation industry cannot be overlooked. The population of licensed pilots has dropped roughly 30 percent since 1980. The light sport aircraft market is based on providing an aircraft priced low enough to counteract the rising costs of owning and flying aircraft and attempt to reverse this trend. At less than half the price of a new C-172 Skyhawk, the SkyCatcher will bring the cost of flight training down to a level accessible to a much greater number of people. This will result in a significant increase in new pilot starts, as well as enable pilots who have been priced out of the market to fly a new aircraft.
By entering this market, Cessna will be creating an entirely new generation of aviators and customers. It is a global economy now, and the demand for flight training isn’t just in the United States. In fact, the largest flight training demand today is coming from countries outside the U.S., like China and India. To provide future growth and employment stability, Cessna must ensure our products are offered competitively in all growing markets.
History has shown that people tend to continue buying from companies that provide them with outstanding ownership experiences. As new people are introduced to aviation, it is essential to Cessna’s long-term growth that they have an outstanding experience with the Cessna brand. As we witnessed in the U.S. over the past 80 years, once introduced to the benefits of aviation, people want to use aircraft to fly farther, faster, and in more comfort. This leads to demand for additional aircraft to meet our customers’ needs. In turn, this leads to increased production rates for all Cessna aircraft, which trickles down to our suppliers, service centers, flight schools, FBOs, and local communities.
I hope this information provides you with additional insight into Cessna’s decision to build the SkyCatcher in China. Whether you learned to fly in a Cessna 120 many years ago or will be picking up a new Citation X next week, we value you as a Cessna customer. And, we value your opinion as to how we’re meeting your needs. How we build the SkyCatcher is different than what we’ve done in the past. But, we plan to make sure you still experience the joy of flight the same way Cessna has made it possible for 80 years – safely, economically, and with aircraft and support you can trust.
Vice President, Marketing