For a second time, Textron Aviation has accomplished what only two other airframers have: delivering more than 1,000 copies of a business jet model.
On March 31, the Wichita, Kansas airframer announced it had handed over the 1,000th Cessna Citation 560XL series business jet. The milestone Citation XLS+ was delivered to a customer in the northeastern U.S. and will be managed and operated by Custom Jet Charters, a Part 135 operator with locations at Palm Beach (Florida) International and Westchester County (New York) airports.
Comprising three variants—Excel, XLS, and XLS+—the 560XL has accumulated more than five million flight hours since receiving FAA type certification in April 1998. “Every two minutes, a 560XL jet takes off or lands somewhere in the world,” said Textron Aviation senior v-p of global sales and flight operations Lannie O’Bannion. “This milestone delivery is a direct reflection of our customers’ trust and the dedication of our employees who continue to build and support the Citation 560XL family of aircraft.”
Additionally, the company’s joint venture in China, Cessna-AVIC Aircraft (Zhuhai), is expected to deliver this year its 300th XLS+, which will go to the Civil Aviation Administration of China’s flight inspection center. It will be the sixth of eight XLS+s acquired through a purchase agreement signed in December 2018, according to the company.
Only three other series of business jets have reached or surpassed the 1,000th delivery mark, according to JetNet: the Bombardier 600 series Challengers at 1,122 aircraft, the Citation 550 series (II, S/II, II/SP, and Bravo) at 1,185 aircraft, and the Hawker 750 through 900 series at 1,102 aircraft.
Rolland Vincent, JetNet iQ creator and director, told AIN the 560XL’s combination of short-field capability, cabin, speed, and price point has made it a popular jet. “It was a very nice response to the Lear 45,” Vincent said, referring to Citation’s cross-field competitor, Bombardier Learjet. “Citation came in with a very nice response, taking this and that off the shelf and then making a very capable airplane.”
The 560XL was developed under then-Cessna chairman and CEO Russ Meyer’s watch. Meyer, now Cessna chairman emeritus, told AIN the company’s long-range product strategy at the time was to build upon the success of the original Citation and develop successive models that were slightly larger than their predecessors and had a higher speed and increased range but were similarly reliable and had a low cost of operation. Examples of that strategy include the Citation II, an upgrade to the Citation I; and the Citation V, an upgrade to the Citation II.
“Development costs for these upgraded Citations were much lower, and we were able to use many components of the original model,” said Meyer, adding that the Citation II employed a stretched fuselage, the same airfoil, and the same empennage as the Citation I as well as many of the same systems. “The same was true about the move from the II to the V,” he said.
The 560XL was another example of this strategy, Meyer explained, noting that by the time it came along, Cessna had delivered more than 3,000 Citation Is, IIs, S/IIs, and Ultras. “As a result, we had a really solid base of prospects looking to upgrade to a midsize jet.”
But not just any midsize jet. Citation owners and operators—some of whom comprised its Citation Advisory Council—wanted a midsize jet that had a stand-up cabin, short-field performance, adequate speed and range, and high reliability at an attractive price, Meyer noted. The price—$6.775 million at the time—was kept down in part by Cessna engineers who devised a lower-cost way of mating the wings to the fuselage that required fewer parts and fewer hours to assemble, Meyer added.
“The beauty of the Excel to me is we knew there would be a solid market,” he said. When Cessna announced the Excel at the 1994 NBAA convention, he added, it took 50 orders for the jet, “which had never happened in the industry before.” By the time deliveries began, Cessna had a backlog of 200 orders for the Excel.
The third edition of The Legend of Cessna, published in 2007, credited Meyer with saying he expected the company to sell more than 1,000 Excels. “We were so confident of the Excel it seemed like a reasonable statement to make,” he said. “And the good news is it’s still in production.” Whenever 560XL production does end, Meyer said, it “might turn out to be” the longest business jet in production for a single model. “It was a good program that benefited from the experience we had on prior and existing Citation models.”