Lightning strikes twice, as Cessna puts Hemisphere on hold


Cessna says that it is putting the development of its new Citation Hemisphere business jet “on hold”, due to a lack of progress on the Safran Silvercrest engines that were due to power it.

Scott Donnelly, chairman and CEO of Cessna’s parent company Textron Aviation, made the announcement during the firms second quarter 2019 investor relations call.

“.. we determine that the engine has not yet demonstrated the performance required for the aircraft design and we have put the program on hold,” said Donnelly. “Any decision to revisit the program in the future would depend on the state of the market, proven engine performance and a competitive landscape at that time.”

In a statement, Safran said that its original contract to supply Silvercrest engines that it had with Cessna has been canceled, with “no financial impact” for either company.

Originally announced in 2015, the Citation Hemisphere should have been the largest business jet that Cessna had built. The original program schedule called for its first flight in 2019, however further development was suspended in April 2018 because of ongoing issues with the Silvercrest.

Problems with the Silvercrest first surfaced in 2016, as air wasn’t flowing through the engines in the originally expected way. This was eventually traced to the axial-centrifugal high-pressure compressor, and Safran said that it would test a fix for the issue in the summer of 2019.

Cessna’s shelving of the Hemisphere comes just a year and a half after reaffirming its commitment to the Silvercrest engine, after Dassault, Safran’s only other Silvercrest customer, completely cancelled its Falcon 5X program because of the delays with the engine.

Dassault had gone much further into the development of the Falcon 5X than Cessna had with the Hemisphere and had gone as far as flying the prototype Falcon 5X with preliminary versions of the Silvercrest engines.

The French manufacturer officially announced that it was canceling the Falcon 5X in December 2017.

Having already spent $1.4 billion on the Falcon 5X program, Dassault took the fuselage cross-section from the 5X and introduced a new model called the Falcon 6X. As well as having a slightly longer fuselage, the Falcon 6X will use Pratt & Whitney PW800 series engines.

But Cessna does not have that luxury with the Citation Hemisphere, as the Silvercrest delivering on its promises was crucial for the aircraft program to succeed.

Cessna admitted this during its parent Textron’s 2017 year-end investor relations call (held in February 2018). Donnelly said that the Hemisphere was planned around the fuel efficiency of the Silvercrest engines, saying that, to make the Hemisphere reach its performance targets, it needed to be using the Silvercrest engines.

“To make that aircraft be what we want it to be, that’s the engine that makes it work,” said Donnelly. “So, if you go to a larger engine then you have to go to a larger aircraft and that’s a path that we’re not going to go down.”

With the Hemisphere back on the shelf, Cessna’s attention will turn to the Longitude business jet, as well as the Denali and SkyCourier turboprops.

Cessna had originally targeted the end of the second quarter of 2018 for the Longitude to receive its US FAA type certificate and for customer deliveries to begin.

It received its provisional type certificate in December 2018, and Cessna now says that the full type certificate should be in hand in the third quarter of 2019.

The Citation Hemisphere is the second large aircraft that Cessna has announced but later canceled.

In July 2009 it canceled the Citation Columbus, an aircraft it had announced just a year previously.