Cessna unveiled a proof-of-concept of a light sport aircraft (LSA) in July 2006 and announced one year later that it would proceed with development of the aircraft, which was named the SkyCatcher. The aluminum aircraft is being designed to meet American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standard F2245 for the light sport category.
As the company prepares for first flight, its engineering team in Wichita is building three airframes: prototype, first production, and a test article for the ASTM compliance work. First flight of the prototype version is expected before June, with deliveries to begin in the second half of 2009.
After about a year of evaluations and design modifications, the proof-of-concept aircraft first flew with a 100-hp Teledyne Continental O-200D engine last August. In recent testing, Cessna engineers have been evaluating engine cooling and propeller pitch settings, as well as overall flight characteristics that it says “are targeted to be fun but forgiving, suiting the training and sport flying market.”
Preliminary design parameters for the SkyCatcher include a maximum gross weight of 1320 lb, a service ceiling of 15,500 ft, a useful load of 490 lb, and 24 gal of usable fuel. It has a cabin width at shoulder height of 44.25 in, equal to that of the much-larger, six-place Cessna 206 Stationair. It features two top-hinged cabin entry doors and forward pivoting seats giving access to a 12.5-ft3 baggage compartment. The aircraft will have tricycle landing gear with a castering nose wheel and standard dual toe-actuated disc brakes.
The two-place (pilot and one passenger) 162 will cruise at speeds up to 118 knot and have a maximum range and endurance of 470 nmi at 6000 ft. It will be equipped with what is described as “an exclusive” Garmin G300 glass cockpit avionics system. Pilots can view information in a single, split-screen primary flight display and multi-function display, or as two full-screen displays with an optional second screen. The aircraft will be capable of day and night, visual flight rules (VFR) operations.
To get the aircraft on the market, Cessna is partnering with Shenyang Aircraft Corp. (SAC), a subsidiary of AVIC I (China Aviation Industry Corp. I), a government-owned consortium of aircraft manufacturers. Cessna will ship the engine and avionics, along with raw materials, from the U.S. to Shenyang, China, for assembly by SAC. Cessna will be providing on-site personnel to oversee assembly, quality assurance, and technical
Following final production in China, SkyCatchers will be test flown, disassembled, and shipped to three Cessna authorized service stations in the U.S.: Eagle Aviation in West Columbia, SC; Yingling Aviation in Wichita; and Southwest Platinum Aviation in North Las Vegas. The facilities will reassemble the aircraft and conduct acceptance test flights prior to delivery.
Other SAC customers include Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, Spirit AeroSystems, and Singapore Aerospace.
Cessna expects to produce up to 700 a year at full-rate production. It currently has almost 900 orders.