The Cessna 162 Skycatcher (or SkyCatcher) is a two-seat light-sport aircraft (LSA). The latest aircraft in the Cessna general aviation product line, its intended market is flight training and personal use.
Cessna had announced its intentions to study the feasibility of developing and producing an LSA on June 6 2006. The concept design was unveiled on July 24 2006 at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh as the Cessna LSA (also referred to as the Cessna Sport), via a marketing study of the feasibility of producing an aircraft compliant with the FAA's new Light-Sport Aircraft category.
On October 13 2006, nine months after launching the program, the concept prototype aircraft, registered N158CS, first flew, departing McConnell Air Force Base for Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport and reaching a speed of 110 knots. Cessna formally launched the Skycatcher program July 10 2007, following with a press event on July 22 2007 at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh that unveiled a full-scale mockup and details about the planned production version. Cessna President Jack Pelton made the announcement:
The conforming prototype had its first flight on March 8 2008 and the first production aircraft flew on May 5, 2008.
The July 22 2007 announcement indicated that these price goals were not met. The first 1000 aircraft ordered were sold for USD$109,500. The price has since been increased to $111,500.
On 27 November 2007 Cessna announced that the Cessna 162 would be made in the People's Republic of China by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation, which is a subsidiary of China Aviation Industry Corporation I (AVIC I), a Chinese government-owned consortium of aircraft manufacturers. By manufacturing the aircraft in China, Cessna reports that it saved USD$71,000 in production costs per aircraft produced, or about 40% of the cost. A second reason cited for moving production to Shenyang Aircraft Corporation was that Cessna has no plant capacity available in the USA.
The decision to produce the aircraft in China has been controversial and Cessna has received a high degree of negative feedback from Cessna 162 customers and potential customers.
The National Transportation Safety Board stated on 18 September 2008 that the Cessna 162 was registered in the experimental category and was conducting a test flight when the accident occurred. The test sequence involved a series of stalls starting at 10,000 feet. The aircraft entered an unintentional flat spin and was not under control at 5,000 feet, at which point the test pilot bailed out of the aircraft. Cessna confirmed that the 162 entered a spin from cross-controlled, power-on stall, that the spin became flat and could not be recovered from. The company indicated that the testing was outside that required for LSA certification and that the accident will result in only small design changes. The aircraft was equipped with a Ballistic Recovery Systems parachute but it failed to deploy when activated.
At a January 2007 LSA event, Cessna hinted that the aircraft's wing might be lowered and the cabin/wing interface smoothed from the prototype gull wing fairing configuration. This re-design work was eventually carried out and the second aircraft differs from the initial prototype in these features. As of January 2007 the prototype had over 50 hours of flight test time, including several long cross country flights.
The high-wing monoplane has fixed tricycle landing gear, with a castering nosewheel. The wingspan is and internal cabin width is at shoulder height. The doors are different from previous two-seat Cessna models in that they open by swinging upward. The controls are unusual for a Cessna in that they have a single hand panel mounted yoke instead of the usual two hand panel mounted yoke.