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Cessna SkyCatcher prototype completes first flight

Cessna Aircraft Company, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, completed the first flight of its Model 162 SkyCatcher prototype Saturday.

"The first flight of the SkyCatcher is a significant step ahead toward our goal of bringing an affordable training aircraft to market," said Jack Pelton, Cessna's chairman, president and CEO. "There is a lot of excitement at Cessna as we progress through our many developmental programs and I'm very proud of our teams for continuing to stay on track."

The one-hour SkyCatcher flight departed Cessna Aircraft Field Airport adjacent to McConnell Air Force Base just after 7 a.m. and consisted of flight maneuvers evaluating the controllability and stability of the aircraft. The SkyCatcher, flown by Cessna Engineering Test Pilot Dale Bleakney, proceeded to Mid-Continent airport where it will continue development testing.

"Cessna's dedicated SkyCatcher team made an incredible effort to complete the first flight ahead of schedule and I'm extremely proud of their accomplishments," said Derek Mookhoek, program manager for the SkyCatcher.

This is the first of three airframes: a prototype, the first production model, and an ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) test article that Cessna's engineering team will build in the development phase of the SkyCatcher program. All engineering work and testing of the 162 will be completed in Wichita. The aluminum aircraft is planned to meet ASTM standard for F2245 light sport aircraft.

Fabrication of the first production 162, scheduled to fly later this spring, is progressing as planned and the ASTM test article last week completed limit load testing alongside the new Citation CJ4 test article at Cessna's structural test facility.

Also, Cessna's engineering team continues to evaluate the 100-hp Continental O-200 engine using the proof of concept aircraft. It first flew with the Continental engine on Aug. 17, 2007, just weeks after the program's official launch at the Experimental Aircraft Association's AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis.

Priced at $111,500, the 162 is expected to cruise at speeds up to 118 knots with a maximum range of 470 nautical miles. The aircraft will feature a Garmin G300 avionics system. Information is presented in a single, split-screen primary flight display (PFD) and multi-function display (MFD), or as two full-screen displays with an optional second screen. The aircraft will be capable of day and night, visual flight rules operations.

Preliminary design parameters for the SkyCatcher include a maximum gross weight of 1,320 pounds, a service ceiling of 15,500 feet, a useful load of 490 pounds and a usable fuel capacity of 24 gallons. It has a cabin width at shoulder height of 44.25 inches, equaling that of the much-larger, 6-place Cessna 206 Stationair. It features two top-hinged cabin entry doors and forward pivoting seats giving access to a 12.5 cubic-foot baggage compartment. The aircraft will have tricycle landing gear with a castering nose wheel and standard dual toe-actuated disc brakes.

Press release issued by Cessna Aircraft Company on March 20, 2008


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