The creation of Textron Aviation brought the iconic brands of Cessna Aircraft Co., Beechcraft Corp. and Hawker under a single roof in 2014.
It also created a company more resilient to the ups and downs of the general aviation market and by doing so, helped provide stability to the Air Capital’s place within the industry.
Leading the merged operations of Cessna and Beechcraft, following the latter’s purchase by Textron Inc., has been Textron Aviation CEO Scott Ernest, who says the company’s work force exceeded their goals in 2014 and helped set the stage for an important year to come.
The creation of Textron Aviation was a big step in 2014. How has that move been received by customers? As we launched Textron Aviation to customers around the world, we did so with a highly skilled and effective team leveraging the strengths and capabilities of the combined Beechcraft, Cessna and Hawker brands. The feedback from customers has been extremely positive. They now have access to the widest range of class-leading products in general aviation through these three iconic brands and are benefiting from the largest global service network.
How has the merger helped better position the combined entities in the market? The merger is evidence of Textron’s continued investment in the aviation segment and a signal to our customers that we intend to maintain our global leadership role in a highly competitive industry. Each brand — Beechcraft, Cessna and Hawker — represents decades of experience and strength in their respective product segments. We are preserving this rich history, but now leveraging it to create an even stronger value proposition for our customers to own aircraft within the Textron family.
What were the other high points for the company in 2014? In the midst of integrating two large companies, our team exceeded our goals in terms of production and new product development. During the last 12 months, we’ve introduced four new or upgraded aircraft to our jet product line alone, as well as upgrades to our piston and turboprop aircraft and offerings within the service network. We also secured key international customers for theBeechcraft Defense T-6 trainer. The accomplishments in 2014 are a credit to the dedication of the people and the combined teams within Textron Aviation.
2014 also saw the beginning of a rebound in the general aviation industry. What signs did you see in the last year that makes you the most optimistic about the future?Certainly, the uptick in customer activity was a good sign. Our financial results are strong and internal measurement indices are positive. Industry flight hours have increased for 12 straight months and used aircraft availability continues to improve with availability in the segments in which we compete at the lowest levels since the downturn. This, combined with favorable energy prices and a stable outlook for the U.S. economy, gives us optimism for 2015.
2015 should be another big year, including certification of the Latitude. How important will bringing that new jet offering to the market be for the company? The Citation Latitude sets the bar for mid-size business aircraft and is a game-changer with the largest-ever Citation cabin, most advanced avionics and cabin productivity technology, incredible performance numbers, and superb acquisition and operating costs. The first opportunity for customers to see the aircraft publicly was at NBAA, and the reception was outstanding. Customers lined up for a first-hand look throughout the show, and a full schedule of customer demos has followed.
What is your overall outlook on the market in 2015? Do you expect the growth seen last year to accelerate over the next 12 months? We’re not going to see huge spikes in sales and deliveries, but we expect a gradual increase, and we’ve set up Textron Aviation to be most efficient at the rates we expect.