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Business Aviation Industry Focus: The Cessna Citation

by Jeremy Cox 1. January 2009 00:00
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To say that it all started because of a horse would be a lie. Cessna's long running series of business jet designs was born because of the eventual success of a dynamic company that was founded by a Kansas/Oklahoma farmer named Clyde, Vernon, Cessna. Duane Wallace, the long serving Chairman and CEO of Cessna, is the person who actually started this immensely successful program in 1968. A horse named Citation only lent its name to the program.

Citation was a Lexington, Kentucky born thoroughbred racing horse that earned the third-place rank on the list of 'Top 100 U.S. Thoroughbred Champions of the 20th Century.' This long-lived (25 year life-span) Equus Caballus, Cheval, or as most of us know it: Horse, earned its fame as a three-year old by becoming the eighth ever horse to win the prestigious 'Triple Crown' (1 ¼ mile Kentucky Derby race at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky; 1 3/16 mile Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland; and the 1 ½ mile race at Belmont Stakes race at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.) Later in the same year, 1948, this Bay Stallion - Citation was recognized by the Chicago based, Daily Racing Form Newspaper as the Horse of the Year. Three years into his comfortable retirement in 1959, Citation was inducted into the National Museum of Racing's Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York. His death in 1970 was about thirteen month's before the business aircraft that was named in his honour, received its official birth certificate from the FAA (Type Certificate.) The official logo-motif of the Cessna Citation line is a horse shoe.

The first jet aircraft built by Cessna Aircraft Company in Wichita, Kansas, was the 1955 U.S. Airforce T-37 'Tweetie Bird' Jet trainer and A37 Dragonfly attack aircraft variant. Its second was the Fan Jet 500, which was later named the Citation thanks to Cessna's marketing guru, Jim Taylor.

Having sold his company in 1936 to three of his relations, one of which was his nephew Duane Wallace, Clyde Cessna was never actually involved in the Citation series, even though the company continues to bear his name. After finding success with the T-37 and A-37 series, Cessna Aircraft Company believed that it was time for them to enter the civilian jet-age by designing and building an eight-seat business jet that would be the logical 'step-up' from their 400 series piston twin aircraft, instead of losing their clients to Beechcraft with their king Air turboprop. The Fanjet 500 was announced at the 1968 NBAA convention in Houston, Texas.

The philosophy behind the Cessna Citation 500, was that it would be a safe, easy to fly aircraft (as easy as a King Air), that could operate in-and-out of short airfields that are normally served by piston and turbo-props, and yet it would deliver jet-speeds. Unfortunately it would prove to normally provide about 340 knots TAS, and therefore became known within some piloting circles as the 'Slow-tation.' Its IFR range was a little light too, at 950 NM. None the less, in its favour, it did also become known as the 'King-Air killer.' The final production Citation 500 was rolled off the production line with a pair of Pratt & Whitney JT15D engines installed. This engine delivered 2,200 lbs of T/O thrust each, to carry this straight winged, 10,850 lb MGTOW aircraft aloft to a service ceiling of 35,000 feet. Thrust reversers (T/R) were optional, and most people chose not to take-on the weight penalty inflicted by the T/R's.

Due to its low MGTOW, the Citation was a pioneer aircraft, in as much as it was the only non-military jet design aircraft that was approved for civilian single-pilot operations, after the Cessna engineers were able to prove to the FAA that their aircraft design was docile enough to permit single pilot operations. This is one of the major features of the Citation that enabled it to outsell all similar sized competing aircraft, as many private businessmen and women were excited to be able to get into their own jet and not be burdened with the expense of having to employ a co-pilot. The realm of single-pilot certification was exclusively ruled by Cessna, until Beechcraft announced their Premier in the mid 1990's.

The Pennsylvania based, Levitz Furniture Company was the very first customer to take delivery of a Citation 500, and between 1971 and 1977 a total of 347 Citation 500 aircraft were produced and delivered to clients around the world. The Citation 500 - Citation I, Citation 550 - Citation II/ Citation Bravo, Citation S550 - Citation S/II, Citation 560 - Citation V/Ultra, Citation 560 - Citation Encore/Encore+ and also the Citation 560XL - Citation Excel/XLS, models have all been built and approved under the same FAA Type Certificate (A22CE) with 3,201 of these specific Citation models have been produced. To-date (Jan 2009), 5,706 Citation series aircraft have been built, and based upon unit sales, Cessna is the world's largest manufacturer of general aviation aircraft. This Wichita, Kansas manufacturer currently produces an impressive line-up of light and midsize business jets, utility turboprops and single engine aircraft. According to the Cessna website, "…Cessna has sold and delivered more aircraft than anyone else in history - 190,000 and counting. …with 15,000-plus dedicated employees worldwide and billions of dollars in orders…" It has designed, built and sold 89 different models since it was founded in 1927. Several more are on the drawing board now, including the new intercontinental range, large cabin-eight passenger, aluminium and composite constructed Citation 850 Columbus, which should start delivering in the mid-next decade (2010-2020.)

Okay so next month we shall end this long running business aviation focus by discovering the story behind the Canadair Challenger. Unfortunately for Globalair readers this series ends here, but it will continue in a book that is planned to be published and released later this year. In March I will then return with a current aviation topic, and if you have any particular issue or topic that you would like to see expanded upon here for discussion, please make yourself heard. If you do take the plunge is posting a thought or comment here, please remember that any input that you care to make will be of great interest to all of the readers here at Globalair.com. So don't be bashful. Go ahead and write your comments and suggestions without forgetting that whatever you write here, can be seen publicly by everyone that visits this page. Be funny, be inspired, but most importantly of all, please be nice.


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Jeremy Cox


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