Cessna retools its Skycatcher

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Feb. 4--Cessna Aircraft has sent a letter to buyers of its new Skycatcher, saying deliveries of its light sport aircraft will be delayed from six to 10 months.

The production line in Shenyang, China, must be retooled, necessitating the delays. The retooling will incorporate changes made to the Model 162 Skycatcher as a result of two spin accidents during flight testing.

Changes include reducing the travel of the control surfaces, increasing the size of the rudder and adding a small aerodynamic ventral fin.

Until the changes to the production line are completed, the Skycatchers are being shipped from Shenyang to Yingling Aircraft in Wichita for the modifications.

"The first few -- until the fix is put into serial production -- will be done here," said Cessna spokesman Doug Oliver.

It's unknown at this point how many Skycatchers will be delivered this year, Oliver said.

"We're going through each individual customer reservation, working through what we know of the production to see what exactly that means for delays in individual customers," Oliver said.

Some customers scheduled to take delivery this year will receive their aircraft in 2011.

Cessna delivered the first Skycatcher in December to Rose Pelton, wife of Cessna CEO Jack Pelton, who is learning to fly.

The Skycatcher is a two-seat, single-piston engine, high-wing aircraft in the Light Sport Aircraft category, defined in the U.S. as an aircraft with a maximum gross weight of 1,320 pounds and a top speed of no more than 120 knots.

Cessna introduced the Skycatcher in 2007 as a way to encourage more people to fly and to train pilots. It has more than 1,000 orders for the plane.

The company decided to build the $112,250 plane at the Shenyang Aircraft Corp. in China so it could be sold at a competitive price, it said.

Last year during flight testing, two test aircraft crashed after they could not recover from planned aggressive spins.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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