Cessna flight ops—huge, diverse and tasked with many different missions

Company pilots flew more than 21,000 hrs in 2010 to accomplish flight test ops, demos and exec transportation.

The department operates its own icing tanker (a modified Citation 550) for company use and for leasing to outside customers. It also provides contract chase aircraft support, flying more than 200 hours this year for outside customers including Boeing and others. It also provides support to the National Test Pilot School at MHV (Mojave CA).

Special test facilities

Between 2006 and 2010 the group flew an average of 3280 flight test hours and 1820 test sorties annually, operating from ICT and from a permanent test facility Cessna maintains at ROW (Roswell NM). Cessna maintains a 5000-ft gravel runway at ROW—not on published charts—for use in certification test activities.

At ICT Cessna maintains an engineering and experimental support base with 2 telemetry rooms that download data from aircraft in flight during test missions. Flight data can be downloaded and delivered to an engineer's desk just minutes after completion of a flight maneuver, while the test aircraft may still be airborne. In addition, Cessna maintains a mobile telemetry trailer that can be deployed anywhere in the world and transmit data directly back to ICT in near real time.

A technical and safety review is conducted for every test plan, and no test flight is ever conducted without an approved test plan. Senior Engineering Specialist, Safety and Standardization Warren Hansen is a military-trained test pilot who is also a member of the company's corporate safety management team.

He is assisted by 2 pilots on safety rotation. Hansen monitors and participates in crew training and takes part in approving all onboard safety equipment. He also conducts quarterly all-hands safety meetings.

John Waller is manager of Engineering Flight Test. His group operates in crossfunctional teams assigned to support specific projects, such as test management, performance testing, handling qualities and systems evaluation. They generate test plans, data analysis, and development/certification reports.

Cessna holds organization designated authority (ODA) from FAA, allowing it to conduct and self-certify much of its flight test activity. The engineering flight test group performs much of this function, as well as coordinating with FAA as required.

All the data included in POHs, AFMs, ops manuals and FMSs is generated through Flight Test Engineering. The group also supplies special performance data for requests from customers that are beyond the scope of what the company's sales engineering department can develop from published data. It also plays a key role in developing Cessna's electronic performance calculators.

Other group functions include ensuring configuration conformity for ground test articles such as static and cycle test rigs, developing master minimum equipment lists and configuration deviation lists, AFM standardization, and coordination with FAA, EASA and other relevant agencies.

Among recent initiatives of the engineering flight test group is the development and certification of the new Citation Ten and its Garmin G5000 avionics package. In addition, the department has taken an active role in developing and training new flight test engineers and engineering test pilots.

The goal is to develop a program that will be industry recognized and certified and can produce fully qualified flight test engineers and test pilots who can conduct company development and FAA certification tests.

Also falling under the responsibility of Cessna's flight department is the provision of advisory support to the employees' flying club. The club has 310 members and 12 aircraft including 172s, 182s, 206s and 172RGs. Members logged 5000 flight hours in 2010, half of them for training under the Club's Part 141 training program. The airplanes are maintained by its Part 145 Repair Station.

Cessna subsidizes flight training, paying employees a $1000 bonus when they solo, another $2000 when they attain a private license, and another $2000 for each additional certificate or rating they achieve. Over the years the club has been a steady feeder for pilots entering the company's flight department, many of whom got their start here.

Mike Potts is an aviation consultant and freelance writer. He worked in corporate communications for Beech and Raytheon Aircraft between 1979 and 1997.


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