Scott Donnelly was named chairman, in
addition to being president and CEO, of Textron this week and then
headed for Oshkosh to check out how two of his important companies,
Cessna and Lycoming, are doing.
J. Mac McClellan
He is working-but being here is not the
toughest duty on Scott's schedule.
You see, Scott is a pilot and airplane
As you would expect, he flies a Cessna, a
turbo 206 piston single. With three kids, wife, and dog, the 206 can't
quite handle the load of some trips so it will soon be replaced by a
Caravan turboprop single.
Owner-pilots are the fastest growing
category of new Caravan owners and all for the same reason-the big
single can carry everything you can haul to the airport and more, do it
with turbine reliability, long range if you want it, and decent speed.
Donnelly had missed the past two Oshkosh
AirVentures because of schedule conflicts, but had attended the show
several times before that. He has been a pilot for more than five years
and has instrument and multi-engine ratings.
Scott earned his multi a few months ago
and was startled by the dramatic differences between his Garmin G1000
equipped Cessna 206 and the well-worn Piper Seminole trainer.
Forget a flat glass primary flight
display (PFD), the Seminole didn't even have a basic GPS navigator.
He had to complete the IFR portion of his
multi-training and checkride with nothing but "steam gauge"
instruments and basic VOR/ILS for navigation.
"I learned how great the situational
awareness is with the G1000 when I didn't have it," he said.
"Taking a step back showed me how big a step forward current
avionics are," he added.
Donnelly believes Cessna and Lycoming's
business is at the bottom of the economic cycle and sees a slow recovery
over the next few years.
Everyone is aware of the economic crunch
that hit in fall 2008 and took general aviation down with it, but what
Scott believes made this recession worse than normal for business
aviation was the political attacks on business aviation, and business
jets in particular.
He finds it impossible to understand why
politicians would want to harm an industry that dominates the global
market and can add so much productivity to any business.
"I was at a board meeting in
Providence on Thursday morning, had a meeting at the Pentagon on
Thursday afternoon, and still arrived here in Oshkosh in time to attend
the Gathering of Eagles dinner in the evening.
"That would have been impossible
without a business jet.
"If I had to do that on the airlines
I would have been forced to pick just one event for the day. With a
Citation X, I could do all three," Donnelly said.
"In business we pay people to work,
not sit in an airline terminal. Business airplanes get people to where
they need to be to do their jobs.
"I enjoy flying, but the business of
the trip is what is important. And any kind of airplane can be a
business airplane. It can be a 206, or a Skylane, Baron or Bonanza or
anything else that saves time on business travel. It doesn't need to be
a jet to be effective on every business mission," he added.
Donnelly told me that Textron continues
to invest in Cessna and Lycoming. Several Cessna models will be
"refreshed" and at least a couple of all-new clean sheet
designs are in the works. Scott clearly understands that if new
airplanes are going to be ready for delivery when the economy recovers
the investment needs to be made now.
His only real fear for the future is that
business aviation could again become politicized during the elections
and that could delay recovery and do great harm to one of the most
important industries in the United States.
He also supports continuing a full line
of Cessna airplanes from light singles to business jets as a strategy to
train new pilots and move them up the product line.
In fact, Donnelly expects similar product
line developments over the coming years internationally, particularly in
China and India.
"China and India have much in common
with the United States geographically. Business is concentrated in
regions and the distances between major regional business centers are
about the same as in the United States. Just as business people need to
travel frequently between major cities here, they will need to do the
same over there," he said.
Of course China and India lack the
aviation infrastructure and access to airspace that we enjoy here, but
that is changing quickly, and Donnelly wants Cessna to be positioned to
have a wide range of business airplanes to take advantage of that
Scott said business was picking up for
Lycoming with more overhauls and factory rebuilts on order, as well as
growth in spare parts sales. Lycoming continues to work on advanced
engines with automated control of mixture and rpm to increase efficiency
while cutting pilot workload.
Donnelly has been thoroughly briefed on
the leaded avgas situation and along with all others who are deeply
involved cautions against over reaction to any potential ban on lead in
"There is no need to panic.
Developing a replacement for 100LL is a process and we don't want to
jump to any quick conclusions or to box ourselves in with unnecessary
"There will be a continuous supply
of avgas as the industry solves the issues of leaded fuel," he
What Donnelly really enjoys about Oshkosh
is being surrounded by pilots and aviation enthusiasts of all stripes.
And the same can be said for Jack Pelton
who is chairman, President and CEO of Cessna. Both of these guys own
airplanes, love to fly, and that's great news for those of us who share
But they are also experienced business
professionals who need to make the hard-nosed decisions that will make
Textron's aviation businesses grow.
I'm optimistic that they will succeed.