Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Citation Step-Up Magic

Cessna’s new citation M2 upgrades performance, value and features

Cessna understands the old wisdom that when you reduce the price, you appeal to new buyers, and when you add performance, old customers upgrade. The new Citation M2 demonstrates that seriously good things happen when you can do both. The story starts back to 2009—only two years after the first customer delivery of the Citation Mustang at a time when hype over the VLJ market was winding down. That was the year that Cessna first encountered stiff competition from the entry-level Phenom 100. With performance numbers closer to the CJ1+ and a price tag about $1 million dollars less than the CJ1+, the new Phenom quickly ate into a market niche long dominated by Cessna. The result wasn't hard to understand. CJ1+ sales plummeted, and in 2011, the CJ1+ quietly disappeared from the Cessna sales brochures. At the same time, there was lively speculation among Mustang owners about how Cessna might create an upgrade path for the Mustang. Some favored an upgrade to the Mustang design with a higher-speed wing, more powerful engines and maybe a stretched fuselage. Others argued that a better option was to somehow revamp the popular time-tested CJ design to add a bit more speed and new avionics. We'll never know how the discussion went inside of Cessna, but with its slightly larger airframe, the CJ1+ was well suited to recapturing market share and won out as a way to bridge the Mustang and CJ product lines. The primary goals were to pull at least $1 million out of the price and to increase performance while creating a clear upgrade path for existing Mustang owners. That meant controlling costs by minimizing unnecessary changes to the airframe. It wasn't easy, but Cessna nailed it, and the result is an airplane worthy of a whole new name: the Citation M2.

How Do You Improve An Already Great Airplane?
So, how do you minimize changes, reduce costs and make a better airplane all at the same time? Cessna wisely listened to the voice of the customer by forming an advisory committee of Mustang owners to develop a list of "must-haves" for the new product. Owners particularly love the simple systems and ease of operation enabled by the Garmin G1000, and they clearly wanted to move up to another Garmin system. So, an early decision was made to outfit the M2 with the next-generation Garmin G3000 system. Replacing the Collins Pro-Line 21 system in the CJ1+ with the Garmin system helped achieve the first goal by pulling nearly enough cost out of the airplane to get to the $1 million reduction in price, while providing a weight savings of about 110 pounds! Owners also wanted a 400-knot cruise speed, more range, a heated windshield and two more seats than the Mustang, along with an extensive list of suggestions to make the plane more comfortable. The devil is in the details, and that process helped produce what just might be the best light jet in its class.

First Impressions
It has been a while in the making, so I was excited to be invited to fly the very first M2 with a full production interior and the ink barely dry on its new RVSM certification paperwork. That means that we could climb above FL280 to see how the airplane performs on a real mission in the real world. I've been flying a Citation Mustang for over five years, so I fit the profile of an upgrade customer pretty well, and I was eager to see how the new M2 compares to the Mustang. We met in Boulder City, Nev., just to the east of Las Vegas, for a photo mission, with a plan to fly to Sedona for more photos before heading to Van Nuys and back to Boulder City. That would provide time to get to altitude and to sample operations in busy airspace.

On the ramp, the M2 might easily be confused with a CJ1+, but as you walk up to the airplane, the first things that jump out are the winglets. They look sleek and futuristic with about 100 knots of ramp appeal. Cessna tells us that they were designed to minimize impact on the wing structure so they have little aerodynamic advantage—still, ramp appeal is something that pilots love, and the new look seems well worth the six pounds they add. A quick walkaround reveals that the rest of the airframe and basic systems are very close to the old CJ1+. Ice protection is provided by hot wings and by deice boots on the elevator. The forward baggage area is only slightly smaller with capacity for 400 pounds in 12.9 cubic feet. The spacious rear compartment can handle another 325 pounds in 32.7 cubic feet. The gear, flaps and speed brakes use the same reliable hydraulic systems as in other CJs.


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