Textron Aviation CEO Scott Donnelly speaks with attendees during the 2014 CJP Convention

Textron Aviation CEO Scott Donnelly speaks with attendees during the 2014 CJP Convention

Textron Aviation CEO Scott Donnelly told attendees of the 2014 CJP Convention that he welcomed the opportunity to meet with members, and share his perspectives on both the state of Cessna’s parent company, and the numerous markets in which it competes.

“Hopefully what you’ve seen over the last few years is a significant commitment to this industry and business in terms of where we’re going with new product programs,” he said during his Sept. 19 keynote address. “It has been a tough cycle, but one where we’ve committed to being in better shape coming out of it.”

Donnelly pointed to a host of improvements made throughout the Cessna product range, from the single-engine piston TTx to the Caravan – “a very sleek and sexy turboprop, that’s now even faster!” joked Donnelly, who flies a C208 – and the addition of recent models like the M2 and CJ4 to the Citation line. He also spoke about Textron’s recent acquisition of Beechcraft, terming that company “a fantastic fit in terms of product and portfolio” that, in particular, brings the well-regarded King Air turboprop twin under the corporate umbrella.

“That’s a complimentary product line,” Donnelly said, also noting that seemingly similar models as the Cessna 206 and Beech G36 Bonanza appeal to distinct customer segments. “That said, there are definite profitability problems with [some Beechcraft] models,” he acknowledged.

The addition of Beechcraft also brought that company’s inroads into the military marketplace to Textron Aviation’s bottom line. “Having a footprint on the military side is strategically very helpful, as it gives us a little more balance and diversification to sustain the business through difficult commercial cycles,” Donnelly noted.

The Beechcraft purchase also raised the number of Textron’s global aviation service centers to 21, which Donnelly said was an important step in building the company’s footprint around the globe. “We have also launched initiatives to expand both third-party and company-owned service centers,” he added.

Following his presentation, Donnelly took several questions from the audience. One of the first concerned the potential for new clean-sheet Citation designs.

“I think you’ll see both clean-slate designs and updates to existing product lines,” Donnelly replied. “Right now it’s a matter of how much you can do, and how fast you can do it. The M2 is a pretty significant redesign of the old CJ1+, and we’ll keep doing that kind of stuff, but we also need to go to the bigger cabin world, which is what the Latitude is a response to.”

When asked by an audience what he saw coming to the market in the years ahead, Donnelly acknowledged the many tradeoffs in the industry. “One of the big questions is going to be around propulsion,” he added. “We have a bunch of guys in the advanced concepts group who are looking at all kinds of planforms, [but] when you go faster, you decrease range. We know how to make a bigger cabin, but then you’re pushing a bigger hole through the sky.”

Donnelly then polled attendees what they would most like to see, with greater range the most popular response.