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As I stare at the ceiling unable to fall asleep, airplanes are on my mind. Failed airplanes. Specifically: the Cessna 162.

I understand that Cessna perceived a need for a two seat trainer. The CEO himself called that out: "The need for a modern, cost-effective two-seat trainer aircraft has never been greater, and we believe we are well positioned to meet that need." I also understand that the light-sport aircraft (LSA) market was thought to be a significant driver for aircraft sales. That turned out to be a gross miscalculation. Cessna ended up selling 192 Skycatchers (versus a planned run of 600 per year) due to quality and price misses. About 80 were not sold and retained as parts donors. A fleet of ready-made LSA aircraft already existed (Champs, Chiefs, Cubs, T-Crafts, etc) so the value proposition of a new $150,000 LSA runabout was not compelling...or so it seems.

The following question assumes that there are folks on SE.av that have some industry knowledge of the GA manufacturing scene...

Why did Cessna not just resuscitate the proven 150 line (~24,000 built) and forego the LSA segment, given that the objective was to capture the two-seat training market and a good number of very cheap LSA airplanes already existed?

I recognize that there may be no good answer for this. Maybe it was just one of those plausible-at-the-time business moves that didn't pan out.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree. There is no good answer. Perhaps I'll write what we already know. LSA came as a political move. Recreational existed. Perhaps people came looking for money and made lots of it and the little airplanes paid the price. $\endgroup$ – user6035379 Oct 18 '16 at 11:17
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    $\begingroup$ You use the abbreviation LSA a lot but what does it stand for? $\endgroup$ – Notts90 Oct 18 '16 at 11:40
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    $\begingroup$ @Notts90 Light Sport Aircraft $\endgroup$ – Terry Oct 18 '16 at 21:22
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I think there are a couple reasons: 1) Weight, and 2) the Type Certificate.

For #1, the original C-150 is roughly 100 lbs too heavy (in empty weight). That's a bit over a 10% reduction, which is huge in an all-aluminum design. Note that later models need even more weight removed (C-152 included).

For #2, the C-150 is a CAR Part 3 type certificated design. To sell it as a LSA would almost certainly require a re-designation so as not to conflict with the original type certificate. This is primarily a paperwork thing, but nobody had done it before (even now, none of the "grandfathered-in" type-certificated designs are still built under their type certificate or by the original manufacturer). The C-152 is an add-on to the C-150's type certificate, so the same problem applies to it.

As far as why the C-162 failed, I think Carlo's answer covers most of the reasons pretty well (ignoring the "GA is dead" rant), though I'd like to add that Cessna did a terrible job with designing the C-162 and took so long to "get it right" that they didn't start deliveries (of an arguably inferior product) until right after the 2008 economic downturn.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hello ioctLR, welcome to Aviation.SE! $\endgroup$ – DeltaLima Oct 18 '16 at 15:11
  • $\begingroup$ GA really is all but dead, dude. Until the middle class again decides that it likes flying and actively pursues it, that's not going to change. $\endgroup$ – Carlo Felicione Oct 18 '16 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ Agree on the weight, but why even shoot for lsa given the large number of legacy lsa airplanes? Also, I think blaming "the lawyers" is a red herring. As far as the CAR3 cert, many planes manufactured today are built using CAR3. $\endgroup$ – acpilot Oct 18 '16 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ acpilot, good question... A Cessna exec could answer it, but I can't. I'm sure they thought they could compete well in the LSA space, and new is always preferable to used (ignoring budget constraints), so they probably thought it would be a good market and just flubbed the implementation. $\endgroup$ – ioctlLR Oct 18 '16 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ @acpilot Regarding the CAR3 status of most GA aircraft, I agree... There have only been a handful of part 23 certified ASEL piston aircraft ever (too expensive), and of those, I can only think of 3 that are currently available new (Cirrus SR20/SR22 and Cessna TTx). I probably missed one or two smaller players, but literally everything else is homebuilt, LSA, or CAR3. $\endgroup$ – ioctlLR Oct 18 '16 at 19:28
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Short answer: GA is effectively dead and the middle class killed it. That segment of the population went from enjoying aviation to deciding that small aircraft were capricious and dangerous little recreational vehicles and were scared of and wanted nothing to do with flying. And with that came the lawyers who nearly sued every GA manufacturer out of business. And the complaining homeowners, greedy real estate developers and politicians who began shutting down airports, etc. What was left was a very small number of very wealthy and intrepid flyers who were willing to spend a lot of cash on personal aircraft and the last group of die hard GA flyers and home builders.

Everyone in the GA community erroneously thought the reason no one went into flying airplane's was that they were too expensive. The solution? Go back to the days of the Piper Cub and other light aircraft powered by a small engine and minimal instruments and avionics. Surely this combined with new composite materials, ballistic parachutes for safety and modern avionics would attract new pilots.

Unfortunately, nobody in the personal aircraft market wants to buy an LSA with a minimum of creature comforts and limited performance. GA manufacturers thought they could attract a new generation of flyers using LSAs, but buyers shyed away from simple airplanes and selected ever more feature filled and exotic varieties. Most LSAs sold today are featuring glass cockpits and are often equipped with autopilots and are IFR certified and costing over $170,000. This poor market research combined with farming out the manufacturing to China and the problems associated with that arrangement is what killed the Skycatcher.

And I hate to say this, but the Skycatcher wasn't that great of an LSA. It wasn't a bad airplane, but it seemed rushed and lacking the attention to detail that many other LSAs had. The plane was made in a communist country and the dark gray spartan sheetmetal interior combined with uncomfortable, tiny seats to sit in matched those origins to a tee. I compare this with both the Czechworks SportCruiser and the Evektor SoprtStar LSAs which were much, much nicer airplanes in the same price range. The 162 flew well and had good handling characteristics albeit it landed pretty fast for an LSA. But again, the market really didn't want that kind of an airplane.

In truth, GA is about freedom and LSAs just don't offer that. In their pure form they are a simple solution for the guy who wants to make a few laps around a traffic pattern on a Saturday afternoon. But they really don't fulfill that niche market for the personal freedom of flight or a practical means to travel with. And again if GA is to survive it requires a serious interest from the middle class who want to buy large numbers of affordable aircraft, something that just doesn't exist.

As to resurrecting the C-150/152 line, that should have been Cessna's first move but management seemed convinced that a clean sheet design offered better market share (wrong). But Cessna learned the hard way about the economics of LSAs and it is doubtful they will try again in the near future.

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    $\begingroup$ I disagree that GA is dead... It hasn't yet recovered from the 1980's litigation-fest, but that's largely because every "recovery" was knocked down by outside events (9/11, '08 housing bubble, etc.). Considering 3rd-class medical reform and the (nearly finished) part 23 re-write, and I think GA is ripe for a major comeback... $\endgroup$ – ioctlLR Oct 18 '16 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ But it is relatively affordable to a middle class or an upper middle class person who earned around $30,0000-$40,000 annually in those days. They may have to save a little for the airplane, but the could still afford them. And a new C-172SP these days retails for $420,000 depending on options. $\endgroup$ – Carlo Felicione Oct 18 '16 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ True enough, and I think that's why the market for new type-certificated aircraft is so slow. On the other hand, the vast majority of new ASEL piston aircraft registered in the US today are E-AB or E-LSA homebuilts. You don't see those in the market statistics... GA is far from dead, it just looks different. $\endgroup$ – ioctlLR Oct 18 '16 at 15:52
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    $\begingroup$ Honestly, the value proposition of something like that vs. something like an RV-8 is a no-brainer. Not only can you outfit the RV with as much or as little crap as you want, it has unbeatable price per performance numbers. GA is still there, but homebuilt is owning the low end of it. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Oct 19 '16 at 4:42
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    $\begingroup$ Disagree that GA is dead. Someone is buying PC12s, TBMs, King Airs, various Cirri, etc. Maybe the GA segment that relies on 1940s technology is dying, but it's not dead yet. $\endgroup$ – acpilot Oct 20 '16 at 17:55

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