Molly McMillin Wichita Eagle
Cessna Invites Customers' Comments for Concept Plane
October 31, 2012
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  • Molly McMillin

    ORLANDO — Cessna Aircraft brought a surprise to the National Business Aviation Association’s annual convention – a mock-up of a concept airplane in the light jet category.

    The mock-up is on display at the company’s exhibit at the Orange County Convention Center.

    The show officially opened Tuesday, and more than 23,000 registered to attend.

    An independent marketing agency is asking Cessna customers to provide their views about what they like and dislike inside the plane and what they want in an airplane.

    Feedback is important “as we plan the new light jet family,” said Brad Thress, Cessna senior vice president for business jets.

    For example, customers will be asked about the positioning of the windows and seat pitch.

    “What we really want is to know exactly what people want in the center of the airplane – the cabin,” Thress said.

    The company received customer feedback, but less formally so, when it developed the Citation Latitude.

    For the Latitude, more than 100 customers went through a mock-up of the plane in Wichita.

    For the new airplane, “It’s always easier to get data on a product if you have a product in front of you,” Thress said.

    Thress said he can’t talk yet about performance, range, price, the timing or other details.

    GlobalParts.Aero expands
    Among the aviation giants holding press conferences at NBAA – Hawker Beechcraft, Cessna, Bombardier, Gulfstream, Honeywell Honda among others – a small Augusta-based company held its own.

    GlobalParts.Aero announced its expansion into the parts manufacturing business.

    The company began as a four-person company in a garage as a parts broker and has grown into a distributor stocking 75,000 to 85,000 spares and replacement parts of GKN, Hawker Beechcraft, Mid-Continent Instruments and others.

    It now employs 52.

    On Monday, it will fire up five machines and begin its machine shop side of the business. It currently operates in two buildings totaling about 120,000 square feet combined.

    It plans to add a 60,000-square-foot expansion and add 12 to 20 employees within the next year, company officials said.

    It’s looking to fill three or four positions immediately, company officials said.

    Its niche will be work on pieces up to 59 inches square.

    “I’m excited about it,” said Chris Roberts, GlobalParts.Aero director of manufacturing.

    Most start-up fabricators are limited to small parts in the 24-inch range.

    But “we are taking a purposeful step to provide a broader spectrum of capability,” Roberts said.

    GlobalParts.Aero’s venture will help keep work in Wichita, said Brad Viex, director of business development, who noted some such work is now sent out of the area.

    The machines are able to machine aluminum parts at exceptionally high rates of speed.

    “They can mow through aluminum,” Roberts said.

    It’s also positioning to be able to machine harder metals, such as steel and titanium.

    There is high demand for general aviation parts, said Melissa Nesmith, vice president and chief operating officer..

    There’s also demand for parts for legacy airplanes, especially those that are out of production.

    GlobalParts.Aero has also added a new Federal Aviation Administration-certified repair station to its capabilities.