CJP 2022: Textron Aviation Working Through Supply, Workforce Challenges
Draper notes progress on Beechcraft Denali, hints at future Citation upgrades
Friday morning at CJP 2022 started off with Textron Aviation CEO Ron Draper’s annual discussion with CJP’s David Miller about the latest developments in the Citation market and how the company is addressing issues ranging from workforce concerns, to the state of the economy (“we’re planning for a slowdown, and we’re planning for continued growth”) and continued snags in the supply chain.
“I wouldn’t say it’s getting worse,” Draper said of the latter, “but it’s going to take some time before it’s substantially better. In our factories, [shortages are] ranging from raw material, to wing spars, to engines coming in late.”
Draper also shared a few of the unorthodox approaches the company has taken to move aircraft out the door, at one point even pulling computer chips from a Citation Longitude earmarked for Textron Chairman and CEO Scott Donnelly to deliver a customer aircraft.
“We were scrambling,” he said. “We’re pulling chips from demo planes, even [Donnelly’s] plane, to keep the customer happy.” Fortunately, a special production run from supplier Intel largely resolved that situation, “and the chairman’s happy that his Wi-Fi is working again.”
Despite these shortages, Textron Aviation has worked to increase production in 2022 against a healthy backlog of orders. In some cases, the company has sent personnel to key suppliers to help expedite the flow of parts.
“Some didn’t believe the industry was going to snap back out of COVID like it did,” Draper said. “One of the chokepoints involved a supplier that couldn’t get raw material. We bought raw material for them and it delivered to their factory. Now, they’re having trouble getting skilled labor to build the parts. [We] sent machinists and technicians down inside their factory to build the parts.”
With workforce shortages affecting many segments of the industry, one attendee asked what CJP could do to help ease the situation for Textron Aviation. “You can send us your children,” Draper replied to laughter. “They can become A&P mechanics, they can become technicians, they can become pilots, whatever!”
As for new upgrades to the Citation line – or even new aircraft – “we’ve got a lot [going on] and a lot I’m not gonna talk about today,” he teased. Draper did note healthy demand for Textron Aviation’s recently-certified C408 SkyCourier, with teams now focused on certification of the Beechcraft Denali single-engine turboprop.
“We’ve targeted certification [and] entry into service for the second half of 2024,” he said. “We have three of those airplanes flying over Wichita right now in the engineering program, and then at the same time we’re working on how to upgrade everything else.”
Draper also lauded CJP members who participated earlier this year in the Special Olympics Airlift, and he recounted one athlete’s experience meeting event chairman Peyton Manning.
“People are cheering and there’s all this noise, you can just imagine, and then [the athletes] would see [Manning] and they would just be transfixed because he’s such a superstar,” Draper said. “One kid says to him, ‘do you know who you are?!?! And Peyton responds, I do, but who are you?’ And he put it all back.
“Another kid was like, ‘man, I wish my brother was here. He’ll never believe I met you!'” he continued. “And Peyton said, ‘yes he will, because we’re gonna take a photo.’ He was just so great with all the athletes.”
Team Members Emphasize Efforts to Address Owner Concerns
Supply chain issues were also front-and-center in a panel discussion with representatives from Textron Aviation’s parts and support divisions. Members expressed dismay over AOG situations that, in one case, stretched into weeks awaiting replacement wingtip recognition light assemblies for a Mustang.
“It’s unfortunate to hear that story,” acknowledged ProAdvantage Program Director Preston Brunswig. “I can assure you the team does have your best interests at heart [and] continues to try to work with you [to resolve supply challenges.]”
Aiding efforts to increase parts stock on hand, particularly for AOG situations, is expansion of Textron Aviation’s supply warehouses and service centers. “We’re adding 180,000 square feet to our west Wichita facility,” Brunswig said. “We have 120,000 parts in stock. Having more parts in one location will give some greater efficiencies and allows for expansion for our [support] teams.”
Tracy Leopold, vice-president of North American Customer Service Centers, recalled the company’s announcement at NBAA-BACE of a new 12,000 sq. ft. satellite MRO facility at Dallas Love Field (DAL) that should go live before the end of 2022. “We will have 20 technicians, and it’s really going to enhance our San Antonio and Houston service centers in the Texas market,” she added.
Steve Sperley, vice-president of sales, highlighted the importance of CJP’s convention to bring company representatives and owners together to resolve issues and promote the Citation jet lineup to new customers.
“So much happens in the hallway over a cup of coffee,” he added. “We can certainly support [owners] but oftentimes I rely on you to help other customers really navigate through what they don’t know.”