Blue-sky thinking is encouraged at Cessna Aircraft, one of the most famous names in small planes. A subsidiary of Textron, the company designs and manufactures light and midsize Citation business jets, Caravan utility turboprops (primarily used in the US for overnight express package shipments), and single-engine piston and light lift aircraft. It has delivered more than 190,000 aircraft over the course of more than eight decades in business, making it the world's leading general aviation company by unit sales. In addition to aircraft sales, Cessna's other principal line of business is aftermarket services, including parts, maintenance, inspection, and repair.
Sales and Marketing
Cessna markets its aircraft worldwide through its own sales force and a network of authorized independent sales representatives.
Cessna accounts for about one-quarter of parent Textron's total revenues. Cessna's rising sales in 2008 took a deep dive in 2009 as a result of the economic recession, which precipitated a 41% decrease in orders for small aircraft. The company was forced to scale back plans to build more than 500 aircraft to less than 300 deliveries. Total aircraft shipments shrunk by some 79%. Its response included cuts in headcount, with Cessna laying off about half of its workforce. Cessna's Oregon plant was shuttered at mid-year and the Citation Columbus business jets discontinued. Fiscal 2010 saw Cessna's profits turn to loss and its revenues decreased 23% compared to 2009 as customers that buy and use business jets struggle to regain their financial footing.
Part of Cessna's recovery strategy is continue to design products that help keep its customer base diverse. Its Citation family of aircraft is popular, for example, with air taxi services that cater to business travelers with unpredictable travel schedules or those going to off-beat destinations. Citation jets are supported by nine Citation service centers owned or operated by Cessna, along with authorized independent service stations located in more than 25 countries around the world.
Cessna also developed the SkyCatcher, a lightweight, single-engine sport aircraft intended to be an affordable, personal use option. The SkyCatcher is the first Cessna-branded product made in China; it was delivered in 2009. In the military sector, Cessna was awarded an $88.5 million contract in 2011 by the US Air Force for aircraft and training systems being procured for light lift missions in Afghanistan.
Cessna continues its push into China, signing a joint venture contract with China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (CAIGA) in 2012 to assemble and sell Cessna Citation XLS+ business jets in China to Chinese customers.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Building upon its supremacy in the sky, Cessna acquired subsidiary CitationAir (formerly CitationShares), a private jet business, in 2010. The acquisition is a strategic fit as CitationAir offers fractional ownership of Citation airplanes, as well as the opportunity to buy whole aircraft from Cessna. Under a fractional ownership agreement, CitationAir manages a customer's aircraft and rents it to other customers. Cessna provides the maintenance for CitationAir's fleet. CitationAir is evolving its product portfolio to include the CitationAir Jet Card, Jet Access, Jet Shares, and Jet Management programs for corporate flight departments.