Going Direct: Cessna Axes TTx And Why Should You Care

By ending production of the highly regarded but light selling TTx, Textron Aviation might be showing its long term plans for other models.

When Textron Aviation announced that it had ended production of the TTx single-engine piston speedster, the news was greeted with little shock, and most of the commentary centered on the angle that it was another Cirrus competitor leaving the market. But the move was interesting from other perspectives, too.

Textron (which as you know is the joint Cessna and Beechcraft mothership) discontinued the Mustang light twinjet late last year, and it was obvious why. The company couldn’t build them cheaply enough for it to make sense to have a product less capable than its M2 for just a little less. The logic behind the move to axe the TTx program is either just as simple or a sign of larger things.

Cessna TTx

Did Textron say bye to the TTx because it was too expensive to build, they didn’t sell enough of them and it could better put its energies into markets where there’s more opportunity? That’s my first thought. My second thought is essentially the same idea on steroids. Textron’s culling of its lineup might mean not just a quarterly sanding off of spreadsheet columns, but a new approach to the business, one where there are far fewer niches, so if you want a TTx, you can get a 206 or a Bonanza or see one of its competitors. Same with the Mustang. But I’d stop short of thinking it in any way is a preview of a departure from light singles. The Cessna 172 dominates that market and while there are some worthy competitors, none are a threat to capture new market share from Textron.

But by using this same logic, it’s easy enough to suspect that other models are at risk. Is it possible that the 182 might go away? Or the Bonanza? Or the 206? Let me preface this by saying I have zero inside information on this (despite asking nicely) but the answer is clearly “yes.” Historic models are at risk of exiting production. I hope it’s not so, but it’s clear that Textron is dealing with shrinking markets for many of its piston models.

In fact, I don’t think that there’s a low-numbers production line at Textron that is safe. And while history and legacy are important to Textron, building airplanes is a tough business and sometimes that means having to make unpopular decisions.

Forgetting about the larger picture, an immediate question is, will Textron sell off the TTx business? They’re not saying, but I’m guessing not, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see the company buy up existing TTx planes (and their Cessna-made predecessors, the Corvalis and 350/400) and scrap them, as Beech did with its Starship in the early 2000s, thereby eliminating the need to keep parts production up and cut the liability tail. But this is unlikely, as Textron continued to sell TTx models until recently.

The real big question is whether the production of lower end (read, piston) GA models makes sense for a big company like Textron. Name another large company currently producing small planes. Arguably Piper is the only other candidate for that spot. And what do Gulfstream, Northrup Grumman, North American Aviation, Boeing and Airbus all have in common? They used to produce light planes but no longer do.

It’s not a new phenomenon, but light plane manufacturing has gotten even more siloed than it was just last week. The future is in smaller companies doing their one thing really well. That, unfortunately, makes it hard for them to diversify enough to weather economic trouble effectively, as we’ve seen is par for the course in aviation but not a real business plan or survival strategy. Let’s hope the new Part 23 will help to spur the development and introduction of new light planes.

Regardless, I’m sad the TTx is going away, in part because it’s a great airplane. But the TTx’s twilight is part of a larger picture, the TTx’s end being a small part of a decades-long downward trend in light aircraft manufacturing that means fewer and more expensive models, along with less diversity and charm in our skies, both things that matter to pilots, a lot.

If you want more commentary on all things aviation, go to our Going Direct blog archive.

13 thoughts on “Going Direct: Cessna Axes TTx And Why Should You Care

  1. If you believe that “history and legacy” are important in Corporate America, you’re living a fools fantasy.
    This was a business decision, pure and simple.
    And even if you love your 206 or A36, nothing but a profit motive will dictate the next move by Textron or any other mega-Corp.

  2. So here are the real issues: At close to $1 mil, there are two key considerations, which Textron fails to address (not only Textron).

    1. Piston fuel: A) The availability going forward is uncertain. By availability I don’t mean that is there any in the tank but is it even going to be produced. B) 100LL is already unavailable in many parts of the world and AOPA issued warnings that even many Canadian airports may be out. Spend $1 mil and in a few years what if there is no fuel?

    2. Ya… that “chute” thingy. Most millionaires (umm yup, that is who is going to buy an $800K toy) have redundancy in the back of their mind, or in the back of the wife’s mind (and we know who calls the shots!). No second engine, then what? IMO CAPS, BRS, whatever you want to call it, is the single element that propelled Cirrus to fame.

    Put BRS on the Cirrus and sales would have gone exponential. Get a high HP diesel approved, same results. BUT, Textron bows out and guess what… the Chinese will figure it out and do it, after all they pretty much own G/A as it is, Cirrus, Diamond, Enstrom, Continental, etc., they are building airports and here we are closing them or shortening runways to make them unusable e.g. Santa Monica, Troutdale, Meigs, etc. But hey, we do have that wall!

  3. If you’re a Bonanza lover, you should be concerned because Textron sold more examples of the TTx last year than it did Bonanzas.

  4. The mere suggestion of an iconic aircraft like the 182 potentially being at risk is truly saddening. To me, the gorilla in the room is the lack of an adequate, sustainable pilot-customer base to support the GA industry. The FAA continues to keep many aspiring pilots out of the air with baseless requirements (and wildly expensive costs for additional testing and special issuances) preventing acquisition of a medical. Just the cost involved in some areas to earn a PPL and Instrument Rating are now on par with the purchase of a small car. It is ironic that the ALPA had much to do with the watering down of what was initially a robust driver’s license certification proposal (Class III medical reform) and now is facing a pilot shortage in the near future. And when we hear about pilots collapsing in the air – the majority are airline pilots with Class I medicals. Can’t have this both ways. We need to find solutions to increase access to aviation across the board. Inflation and other monetary adjustments aside, the costs involved now are prohibitive (as far as owning a new or even slightly “pre-owned” aircraft) for all but the extremely well-off. While flying was never for the “faint of wallet,” it was not like the present. Flying clubs – fractional ownership – wonderful ideas – but we need to go a lot farther here if GA is going to survive on any meaningful level. We need more pilots in the GA population. Best regards.

  5. It was a dumb move from the start. Cirrus was the big Gorilla with a ballistic chute which was a big reason for it’s success. I never thought Cessna had a chance. The last part of your article you mention “Why we should care.” I have been active in Genav for 50+ years. Liability is what we should really care abuts it’s been a Cancer that keeps light aircraft prices, parts, and services continually soaring upward beyond most peoples reach. I know many young people that are discouraged from aviation because of the high costs. Almost all the guys who own hangars at my field are all grey or bald. Who will carry on? The legal system has turned our courts into casinos for attorneys via the contingency suit. Go for the highest ridiculous emotional settlement possible so attorneys can collect 40%. They have done the same to our healthcare systems as we look to our politicians, most of whom are lawyers, that keep our attention away from their cash cow. Many western countries have banned “the contingency suit” as it is a conflict of interest. Light aircraft aviation has been my life but I fear it is dying slow death.

  6. Well, let me see. Cessna bought the Lancair, and Textron bought the Cessna, and called it a TTx. Somewhere along the line, the Chinese buy into Textron, and now the company ignores the American light plane market. And how much influence is there from the heavies not wanting light aircraft polluting the airspace. Or do the Chinese simply want to limit the market.

  7. I think Textron is recognizing that there are substantial changes coming to the light aircraft industry, and it’s happening in a number of dimensions. Firstly, the speed-economy formula is being reshaped by fresher, younger companies with new airframe designs – see Diamond and Pipistrel. This makes older-style models far less attractive. Cessna, Beechcraft, Piper – they all will have to massively refurbish their line-up. Secondly, propulsion technology is beginning to change. Manufacturers will need airframes that can – for instance – take an electric system in the future. Again, Pipistrel comes to mind. Thirdly, there is more competition, often specialized, and it‘s nit always coming from the traditional GA sector. Ultra-lights, as they‘re called in Europe, have evolved into very capable aicraft, are much cheaper to own and operate, and adminstratively easier, too. This also eats into the traditional market. Frankly, I like the TTx, but despite thinned-out line-up at some of the bigger manufacturers, I am actually looking forward to more variety in the skies.

  8. Yes most wealthy folks will not bother with a light single when they can opt for a twin or jet at similar prices, (i am talking a used plane of course). It is a shame a GA pilot that flies for fun has to drag a forty to fifty year old airplane out of the hangar instaed of a new one. But
    the reality is, airplane purchase and ownership is a rich man’s game.

  9. I would point out as our president has pointed out the wages of the average American have been flat for the last 20 years. The dollar was so valueless due to the printing notes (they really don’t print them but make them out of thin air) to cover deficits which has driven the value of the dollar in the toilet. Traditional bills like education and hospitalization have wiped out the middle class.

    Manufacturers in every other segment have caught on: The trend is toward less expensive. Doing more with less. Here comes a fast single engine aircraft and the expensive price tag ($733,000.00) is not enough. The plane still has to go somewhere. They put a 310 horsepower engine in it and stick you with the brutally expensive 100 LL fuel. Why not lower the horsepower just a little a run car gas. I am guessing that 310 horsepower engine is sucking 15-18 gallons an hour at cruise and fill up from empty could run $400.00-$500.00 depending on 100 LL prices. 15 gallons at $4.00 a gallon means this thing is sucking $60.00 an hour in fuel alone. That same consumption on car fuel at $2.50 a gallon would be $37.50. That is all before maintenance, insurance, storage.

    Aircraft manufacturers seem to be mulling around looking for that Magic plane that thousands of people will brainlessly flock to and drop $1000,000.00 (with financing) on. There are fewer and fewer of those people, those people generally speaking are anything but mindless, and those that have that kind of money might just spend it on something else like children’s education or a house. This may well account for the rise of the LSA and the overpowered/overweight LSA’s that require pilot licenses.

    Keep up the good work, warmest regards,

    James Estrada

  10. You mentioned the 182 as a potiental target for stopping. You don’t understand it’s position in the market place. (Or you are just trying to get people whipped up) IF. And this is a big if… they would sell off their rights to the design to someone who could offer several versions of the basic airframe and dominate the market.

  11. Robert-there will not be any “unsold” airframes to destroy because there aren’t any unsold aircraft.

    Last November, as they have done for several years, Van Bortel purchased the remaining aircraft from the 2017 production run, plus some demonstrators. I think it was a total of 9-10 airplanes, all of which save one they sold within 3-4 weeks, and not at a discounted price, either. I know, because I ended up with the third-to last one manufactured. Just goes to show what a motivated and supported sales force could and did do with the aircraft.

    TTx sales may not have been spectacular but the aircraft has consistently outsold both the G36 Bonanza and the G58 Baron, makes me wonder why those legacy airframes are preserved (for now) while the most modern piston airplane that Textron has to offer is going away.

    All that you have to do to understand Textron’s current attitude towards their piston line is to read the transcripts of their quarterly earnings calls. Their current CEO goes on and on about the jets, will also comment on the turboprops, and never talks about the piston airplanes at all. Never. Heck, he has spent far more time talking about their snow-toy line (Arctic Cat) over the past two years!

    I fear that the death knell for the TTx and eventually the entire Textron piston line sounded the day Jack Pelton retired.

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