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Cessna Aircraft Company
HeadquartersWichita, Kansas
Key peopleScott A. Ernest (CEO from 31 May 2011[1]
ProductsGeneral aviation aircraft
Business jets
Employees8,500 (2011)[2]
SubsidiariesMcCauley Propeller Systems
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Cessna Aircraft Company
HeadquartersWichita, Kansas
Key peopleScott A. Ernest (CEO from 31 May 2011[1]
ProductsGeneral aviation aircraft
Business jets
Employees8,500 (2011)[2]
SubsidiariesMcCauley Propeller Systems
1951 Cessna 195
Cessna 337 Skymaster, a "push-pull" aircraft
1979 Cessna 340A
1977 Cessna 404 Titan II
Cessna 560XL Citation Excel of the Swiss Air Force

The Cessna Aircraft Company is an airplane manufacturing corporation headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, USA. Their main products are general aviation aircraft. Although they are the most well known for their small, piston-powered aircraft, they also produce business jets. The company is a subsidiary of the U.S. conglomerate Textron.



The company traces its history to June 1911, when Clyde Cessna, a farmer in Rago, Kansas, built a wood-and-fabric plane and became the first person to build and fly an aircraft between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains. Cessna started his aircraft ventures in Enid, Oklahoma, testing many of his early planes on the salt flats. When bankers in Enid refused to lend him more money to build his planes, he moved to Wichita.[3]

Cessna Aircraft was formed in 1927 when Clyde Cessna and Victor Roos became partners in the Cessna-Roos Aircraft Company. Roos resigned just one month into the partnership selling back his interest to Cessna.[4] In the same year, the Secretary of State approved a name change to Cessna Aircraft Company.[5] The Cessna DC-6 earned certification on October 29, 1929, sharing this day in history with the stock market crash of 1929.[6]

Cessna Aircraft Company closed its doors from 1932 until 1934 due to the state of the economy. In 1934, Dwane Wallace, with the help of his brother Dwight, took control of the company and began the process of building it into what would become a global success.[7] In 1933, Cessna CR-3 custom racer took its first flight. The plane won the 1933 American Air Race in Chicago and later set a new world speed record for engines smaller than 500 cubic inches by averaging 237 mph (381 km/h).[8] In 1937, the Cessna C-37 was introduced as Cessna's first seaplane when equipped with Edo floats.[9]

In 1940, the U.S. Army gave Cessna their largest order to date, when they ordered 33 specially equipped Cessna T-50s. Later this same year, the Royal Canadian Air Force placed an additional order for 180 T-50s.[10]

1946 saw Cessna return to commercial production after the revocation of wartime production restrictions (L-48) with the release of the Model 120 and Model 140. The approach was to introduce a new line of all-metal aircraft that used production tools, dies and jigs rather than the hand-built process used older tube-and-fabric construction.[11][12] In 1948 the Model 140 was named by the US Flight Instructors Association, as the "Outstanding Plane of the Year".[13]

1955 saw Cessna's first helicopter, the Cessna CH-1, receive FAA type certification.[14] In 1956, Cessna released the Cessna 172 which went on to become the most produced airplane in history.[15]

In 1960, Cessna affiliated itself with Reims Aviation of Reims, France.[16] 1963 saw Cessna produce its 50,000 airplane, a Cessna 172.[17] Cessna's first business jet, the Cessna Citation I performed its maiden flight on September 15, 1969.[18]

In 1975, Cessna produced its 100,000th single engine airplane.[19]

In 1985, Cessna became a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamic Corporation. Production of the Cessna Caravan began.[20]

In 1992, General Dynamics announced the sale of Cessna to Textron Inc.[21]

On 27 November 2007, Textron announced that Cessna had purchased the bankrupt Columbia Aircraft company for US$26.4M and would continue production of the Columbia 350 and 400 as the Cessna 350 and Cessna 400 at the Columbia factory in Bend, Oregon.[22][23]

Chinese production controversy

On 27 November 2007 Cessna announced the new Cessna 162 would be made in the People's Republic of China by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, which is a subsidiary of China Aviation Industry Corporation I (AVIC I), a Chinese government-owned consortium of aircraft manufacturers.[24] By manufacturing the aircraft in China, Cessna reports it saved USD$71,000 in production costs per aircraft, or about 40% of the cost. A second reason cited for moving production to Shenyang Aircraft Corporation was Cessna had no plant capacity available in the USA at the time.[25]

Cessna received a high degree of negative feedback from 162 customers and potential customers regarding this decision. Complaints centered on the recent problems with Chinese production of other consumer products, China's human rights record, exporting of jobs, and China's less than friendly political relationship with the USA.[26] The backlash surprised Cessna and resulted in a company public relations campaign to try to explain the decision from a business perspective and assure customers that quality of the aircraft will not be compromised.[27] The reaction to the explanations and assurances has been overwhelmingly negative, although a small number of customers have applauded the production in China.[26]

In early 2009 the company attracted further criticism for continuing plans to build the 162 in China while laying off large numbers of workers in the USA.[28]

2008–10 economic crisis

The company's business suffered notably during the late-2000s recession, laying off more than half its workforce between January 2009 and September 2010.

On 4 November 2008 Cessna's parent company, Textron, indicated that Citation production would be reduced from the original 2009 target of 535 "due to continued softening in the global economic environment" and that this would result in an undetermined number of lay-offs at Cessna.[29]

On 8 November 2008, at the AOPA Expo, CEO Jack Pelton indicated that Cessna sales of aircraft to individual buyers had fallen but piston and turboprop sales to business had not. "While the economic slowdown has created a difficult business environment, we are encouraged by brisk activity from new and existing propeller fleet operators placing almost 200 orders for 2009 production aircraft," Pelton stated.[30][31]

On 13 November 2008, Cessna announced that a total of 665 jobs would be cut at its Wichita and Bend, Oregon plants starting in January 2009. The Cessna factory at Independence, Kansas, which builds the Cessna piston-engined aircraft and the Cessna Mustang, was not forecast to see any lay-offs, but one third of the workforce at the former Columbia Aircraft facility in Bend was laid off. This included 165 of the 460 employees who built the Cessna 350 and 400. The remaining 500 jobs were eliminated at the main Cessna Wichita plant.[32]

In January 2009 the company announced 2,000 additional layoffs, bringing the total to 4,600. The job cuts included 120 at the Bend, Oregon facility reducing the plant that built the Cessna 350 and 400 to fewer than half the number of workers that it had when Cessna bought it. Other cuts included 200 at the Independence, Kansas plant that builds the single-engined Cessnas and the Mustang, reducing that facility to 1,300 workers.[33]

On 29 April 2009 the company announced that it was suspending the Citation Columbus program and closing the Bend, Oregon facility. The Columbus program was finally cancelled in early July 2009. The company said "Upon additional analysis of the business jet market related to this product offering, we decided to formally cancel further development of the Citation Columbus". With the 350 and 400 production moving to Kansas, the company indicated that it would lay off 1,600 more workers, including the remaining 150 employees at the Bend plant and up to 700 workers from the Columbus program.[34][35]

In early June 2009 Cessna announced that it would lay-off an additional 700 salaried employees, bringing the total number of lay-offs to 7600 or more than half the company's workers.[36]

In December 2009 the company announced that it will close its three Columbus, Georgia manufacturing facilities between June 2010 and December 2011. The closures will include the new 100,000-square-foot (9,300 m2) facility that was opened in August 2008 at a cost of US$25M, plus the McCauley Propeller Systems plant. These closures will result in total job losses of 600 in Georgia. Some of the work will be relocated to Cessna's Independence, Kansas or Mexican facilities.[37]

Cessna's parent company Textron posted a loss of US$8M in the first quarter of 2010, largely driven by continuing low sales at Cessna, which were down 44%. Cessna's workforce remained 50% laid-off and CEO Jack Pelton stated that he expected the recovery to be long and slow.[38]

In September 2010 Cessna CEO Jack Pelton announced a further 700 lay-offs, bringing the total to 8,000 jobs lost. Pelton indicated this round of layoffs was due to a "stalled [and] lackluster economy" and noted that while the number of orders cancelled for jets has been decreasing new orders have not met expectations. Pelton added "our strategy is to defend and protect our current markets while investing in products and services to secure our future, but we can do this only if we succeed in restructuring our processes and reducing our costs."[39]


On 2 May 2011 CEO Jack Pelton retired. The new CEO, Scott A. Ernest, started on 31 May 2011.[40] Ernest joined Textron after 29 years at GE, where he had most recently served as vice president and general manager, global supply chain for GE Aviation. Ernest previously worked for Textron CEO Scott Donnelly when both worked at GE.[41]

In September 2011 the Federal Aviation Administration proposed a US$2.4M fine against the company for its failure to follow quality assurance requirements while producing fiberglass components at its plant in Chihuahua, Mexico. Excess humidity meant that the parts did not cure correctly and quality assurance did not detect the problems. The failure to follow procedures resulted in the delamination in flight of a 7 ft (2.1 m) section of one Cessna 400's wing skin from the spar while the aircraft was being flown by an FAA test pilot. The aircraft was landed safely. The FAA also discovered 82 other aircraft parts that had been incorrectly made and not detected by the company's quality assurance. The investigation resulted in an emergency airworthiness directive that affected 13 Cessna 400s.[42]

On 23 March 2012 Cessna announced that it is pursing building business jets in China as part of a joint venture with Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC). The company stated that it intends to eventually build all aircraft models in China, saying "The agreements together pave the way for a range of business jets, utility single-engine turboprops and single-engine piston aircraft to be manufactured and certified in China."[43][44]

In late April 2012 the company recalled laid-off workers and started new hiring to fill 150 positions in Wichita as a result of anticipated increased demand for aircraft production.[45]

Marketing Initiatives

Cessna has always had an active marketing department. This was especially notable during the 1950s and 1960s. During this period, the marketing department followed the lead of Detroit automobile manufacturers and came up with many marketing slogans and buzzwords to describe Cessna’s product line in an attempt to place their products ahead of the competition.

Other manufacturers and the aviation press widely ridiculed and spoofed many of these marketing terms but between Cessna’s designers producing a product the flying public wanted and the work of the marketing department, Cessna built and sold more aircraft than any other manufacturer during the boom years of the 1960s and 1970s.

Cessna 150s produced before 1964, such as this 1962 Cessna 150B, lacked the later Omni-Vision rear window
A 1965 Cessna 150E. The 1964 model 150D and the 150E introduced Omni-Vision rear windows on the Model 150

Marketing buzzwords

Cessna marketing buzzwords included:

Aircraft models

Currently Cessna has the following models in production:[48]


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  3. ^ Article in "Enid News"
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  6. ^ History of Cessna from 1929
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  9. ^ History of Cessna 1937
  10. ^ History of Cessna 1940
  11. ^ Flying Magazine: 78. August 1945. 
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  13. ^ History of Cessna 1948
  14. ^ History of Cessna 1955
  15. ^ History of Cessna 1956
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  17. ^ history of Cessna 1963
  18. ^ History of Cessna 1969
  19. ^ History of Cessna 1975
  20. ^ History of Cessna 1985
  21. ^ History of Cessna 1992
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