Cessna’s new CJ3 proves to be a red-hot seller

 - May 6, 2008, 9:04 AM

Cessna Aircraft racked up orders for 156 Citation CJ3s (of which 100 are for NetJets and 25 for CitationShares) in the two days following its launch on the opening day of last month’s NBAA Convention in Orlando, Fla. The new CJ3 is a stretched derivative of the hot-selling Citation CJ2–itself a stretched derivative of its popular CitationJet/CJ1.

Senior v-p of marketing Roger Whyte said the company is “confident that the CJ3 will meet the market’s demand and repeat the success of the CitationJet, CJ1 and CJ2.” To date, 359 CitationJets and more than 130 CJ1s and 90 CJ2s have been delivered. The CJ1 and CJ2 received their respective certifications in February and June 2000.

First flight of the CJ3 is planned for the second quarter of next year, with certification under FAR Part 23 slated a year later. Deliveries of the $5.795 million CJ3, designated the Model 525B, are scheduled to begin in the fall of 2004. To meet this certification schedule, Cessna will employ three flight-test airplanes–one prototype and two production CJ3s–and several ground-test articles. The CJ3 prototype is now being assembled at Cessna’s Pawnee facility on the east side of Wichita, and a cabin mockup of the new Citation was on display at the NBAA Convention.

Features and Specifications

The CJ3 includes features found on the CJ2, in addition to more powerful Williams International engines, new tailcone, 24-in. longer cabin and expanded standard and optional avionics. Like the rest of the CitationJet series, the 1,664-nm (NBAA IFR) CJ3 is designed for single-pilot operation.

Two Fadec-controlled, 2,780-lb-thrust Williams FJ44-3A engines will yield a high-speed cruise of 417 kt at 33,000 ft while burning about 1,300 pph. The -3A engine has the same core as the FJ44-2C, but it sports a one-inch-wider fan and improved compressor and turbine component efficiency. TBO is expected to be 4,000 hr.

An FJ44-3A engine was sent in early July to Cessna and was installed on a CJ2 testbed. The first engine run was conducted on July 31 and first flight on that testbed occurred on August 16. Since then, the engine has flown about half a dozen times.

While the CJ3 seats seven to eight passengers–the same as the CJ2–occupants will enjoy more legroom, thanks to the 20-in. forward and four-inch aft plugs. Additionally, the extended cabin allows room for a private lavatory divided by pocket doors, as opposed to the pull-across curtains that barely hide the CJ1/CJ2’s lavatory.

Standard seating on the 525B is a club-four configuration and two forward-facing aft seats. New features found in the CJ3’s interior include a one-piece headliner, 110-volt outlets (two in the cabin, one in the cockpit) LED indirect cabin lighting and dropped-aisle lights and a standard forward refreshment center, which has a 10-in. wider work surface than the CJ2’s. As for interior options, operators can choose a Spirent AvVisor Plus cabin display, lower sidewall pockets, cabin fax/data outlets, 220-volt outlets (for customers outside North America) and a right-hand forward side-facing seat, among others.

Citation CJ1/CJ2 pilots should feel right at home with the CJ3’s Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21, the same integrated avionics suite found on those earlier models. However, the CJ3’s Pro Line 21 system includes as standard the copilot-side primary flight display (which includes a dual air data computer for RVSM capability), enhanced multifunction flight display, file server system (complete with cursor control device) and map overlays. Also standard are 8.33-kHz channel spacing-compliant Collins Pro Line 21 CNS radios, Collins FMS-3000 flight management system, Goodrich LandMark class-B TAWS, Goodrich Skywatch TCAS I and cockpit voice recorder provisions. Optional equipment includes FMS performance database, e-charts and graphical weather.

Performance-wise, the CJ3 is in a razor-thin niche between the $4.879 million CJ2 and $5.446 million Citation Bravo. The CJ3’s 1,664-nm NBAA IFR range (with two pilots and four pax) is just 118 nm more than the CJ2’s and 115 nm less than the Bravo’s. While the CJ3’s balanced field length of 3,450 ft is only 30 ft longer than the CJ2’s, it is 150 ft less than that of the Bravo. The CJ3’s 5,510-lb useful load is significantly more than the CJ2’s 4,750 lb, but is only slightly less than the Bravo’s 5,600 lb. With a maximum cruise speed of 417 ktas, the CJ3 is the fastest of the three, besting the CJ2’s and Bravo’s top speeds of 410 ktas and 403 ktas, respectively.

Seeing that the CJ3 and Citation Bravo will likely compete against each other, Cessna chairman and CEO Russ Meyer said the company “will let the marketplace decide” the fate of the Bravo. This response evokes a déjà vu feeling. At the 1998 NBAA Convention in Las Vegas, Cessna launched the Citation Encore, along with the CJ1, CJ2 and Sovereign. The Encore was similar in size and performance to the older Citation VII, though Cessna executives at the time said the two models would indeed be built side by side. That never really happened, as Citation VII production ceased about the same time the first Encore was delivered in September 2000. Only time will tell if the CJ3 will spell the end of the Bravo.