New Wichita plane almost ready for flight

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WICHITA, Kan. -- In a building known as the "Glass House" is where Cessna Aircraft employees work on projects meant to remain secret until announced.

That's where a group of primarily Cessna engineers, technicians and mechanics built a plane known as the Scorpion over the past couple of years.

The plane was built under a joint venture of Textron AirLand Enterprises, LLC. Textron, of course, owns Cessna.

The plane announced to the world in September is expected to make its first flight next week from McConnell Air Force Base.

Bill Anderson is President of Textron-AirLand and is also Cessna Vice President of Military Programs.

Anderson says, "This is a Textron-AirLand project. But it couldn't have been done without Cessna's support and Cessna's expertise. We highly leveraged all of Cessna's processes and their commercial best practices. This is bringing commercial best practices to a military aircraft to keep the acquisition costs down and keep the cost per hour down."

Anderson says the goal is to keep the Scorpion's purchase price below $20-million. He says the cost to operate the Scorpion will be below $3,000 per hour. That, he says, compares to $15,000 per hour it costs the US Air Force to operate the F-16.

"So you can see the tremendous savings the Scorpion aircraft is bringing to the military market."

Anderson says those lower costs will help market the Scorpion in an environment of tighter military budgets.

Anderson describes the Scorpion as a multi-mission aircraft capable of striking targets in the air, one the ground or in its intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance role.

"It's a gamble," says Anderson referring to Textron and AirLand Enterprises putting up the money to build the Scorpion without the Pentagon or any other specific customer requesting it.

But Anderson says they believe there is a gap in the market for a plane with the Scorpion's capabilities.

Chief Engineer Dale Tutt says he is confident the Scorpion will meet the expected performance goals.
Tutt says the team has been checking systems.

Tutt says, "We've really done everything we can to make sure the airplane will perform as intended so that when we get up and start flying we have very high expectations it will meet all the intended performance and all the requirements."

Tutt estimates 95% of the plane's structure came from Cessna and local suppliers.

He says, "Reusing existing components or off the shelf components like engines save a tremendous amount of development time."

If everything goes as planned the new plane will be pulled out of the engineering building at the Cessna Pawnee facility site and will taxi onto the adjoining McConnell runway for first flight next week.

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