Tom Perry, Textron VP of Sales, Europe, on the company’s determination to keep bringing new models to market
Q: We are now just about through the first quarter of 2016. What is your take on the year so far?
A: There is no doubt that the market could always be better, and that is certainly true of current circumstances. However, we are quietly optimistic. We don’t have any major concerns about being able to deliver what we are manufacturing this year. In 2015, which wasn’t the easiest of years, we succeeded in delivering everything that we needed to, and we expect to be able to do the same across our jets and turboprop portfolios.
Q: What have the highlights been for you and Textron so far?
A: Obviously we were delighted that the Latitude received EASA certification in February, having been certified by the FAA in the middle of 2015. We had already begun deliveries in Europe prior to this, though these were not on an EASA registration. Of course, the owners might choose to convert across to EASA now.
It was very exciting for us that we managed to deliver 16 Latitudes by the end of 2015. It is interesting to note that clients are definitely motivated by the latest products. If we look back at all the aircraft we sold in Europe in 2015, some 70% of that sales book consisted of models that had been certified during the course of the last three years. Some of these might have a pedigree, such as a Sovereign becoming a Sovereign+, but the new features are definitely what make these models attractive.
We are very proud of the fact that we have certified eight new aircraft models over the last few years, including a couple of turboprops. This is very much a feature of Textron’s strategy: to work constantly at bringing new models to market. We have a proven capacity to get new aircraft certified and to do it in a very fast time frame. The Latitude, for example, took just three and a half years, from the date of the announcement of the project, to achieve certification.
Q: What does the Latitude bring to the market?
A: Given the size of the cabin, the Latitude is an extremely efficient aircraft. It has the same wing as the Sovereign+, which gives it a high cruise speed and a range of 2,850 nautical miles with four passengers. The full fuel payload is 1,000 pounds, but the really important point is that it can operate off runways that are less than 3,600 feet in length, which opens up a very large number of airports around the world. Importantly, it can operate into La Môle airport in Saint-Tropez, an extremely popular holiday resort with a very challenging approach.
We are looking to get certified to operate into London City in the coming months. This last is a formality, really, as the only model in our line-up that cannot do the steep approach demanded by London City is the Citation X+.
Q: What is the current state of play on the Longitude?
A: We unveiled the Longitude at NBAA last year. This has a 3,400 nautical mile range with the first flight expected in the summer of this year. It has a Honeywell power plant, the HTF7700L turbofan, and we expect entry into service in 2017. The aircraft has a double club interior configuration and an in-flight accessible baggage compartment that is twice the volume of the competition. It is going to have the lowest altitude pressurised cabin of any aircraft in its class and is capable of reaching anywhere in the US from Western Europe, with a single stop. It has plenty of range to get from anywhere in Europe to Dubai and similar city pairs.
Our CEO, Scott Ernest, has pledged that Textron Aviation will spend a large portion of investment dollars every year to sustain new model production.
Q: And your latest announcement, the Citation Hemisphere?
A: The Hemisphere will have a range of 4,500 nautical miles, which gives non-stop easy access to the United States from anywhere in Europe. It takes us into the US$30 million price bracket, which puts it up against the Challenger 650 and Dassault’s Falcon 2000X. These are very worthy competitors to go up against, but the market has demonstrated an appetite for the additional features that a new model brings to the table. There is a real demand for modern avionics, quiet interiors and new features. For their part, the regulators want new levels of automated communication and navigation. These are expensive items to retrofit into existing models and an aircraft that is designed afresh from tip to tail, that incorporates and embodies these features from the outset, has clear advantages. Good as the competition is, these aircraft were designed when the features that will be standard in the Hemisphere were just dreams.
The Hemisphere has a cabin cross-section of 102 inches, which gives it the widest cabin in its class. We have not revealed the height yet, but I would point out that the Latitude and Longitude have a six-foot cabin height with a narrower cross section, so a height of greater than six feet is on the cards.
Q: How is the M2 doing?
A: It is generating an excellent response from the market. This is not exactly a surprise. Its heritage among the other CJs is huge. It is a developed version of the CJ+, with an all-new Garmin flight deck. The M2’s flight characteristics are enhanced by its winglets and the aircraft can be flown by any pilot with a CJ type rating. It is a single-pilot aircraft, so it can be flown by a very large population of professional and owner pilots.
The M2 has a club seat configuration, with a side-facing rear seat for a fifth cabin seat and a sixth seat that is a belted toilet seat. Since many owners will fly this as a single-pilot aircraft, there is arguably a seventh passenger seat in the cockpit. The range is about 1,540 nautical miles with a top cruise speed of just over 404 knots.
Q: What can you tell us about the new single-engine turboprop (SETP)?
A: We have not yet announced anything on the SETP beyond the initial performance data and the power plant, which will be GE’s advanced turboprop announced at NBAA 2015. We are working on various mock-up configurations, aiming at a cruise speed of around 280 or so knots and a range of 1,500 nm, along with a best-in-class cabin. We’ll have more to say about it through the course of 2016, but it is a very exciting project.
Q: What was the inspiration to go for a new single-engine turboprop?
A: Not having an SETP is a gap in our product line-up, without a doubt. The Caravan is a much-loved single-engine utility aircraft with an unpressurised cabin and a great reputation. However, what it gains in terms of lift, it loses in terms of altitude. So there is a gap to fill there with a high-performance single-engine turboprop. There is an undoubted demand for such an aircraft, as we can see from the success that other OEMs are enjoying in this space. It looks like 2016 is going to be a very interesting year.