Market Analysis: Cessna aircraft and deliveries


Although the Lockheed Jetstar takes the title of the first ever business jet, the Cessna Citation name has become synonymous with business aircraft.

The original Citation flew for the first time in 1969 and entered service in 1972. Since then, Cessna has delivered more than 7,000 aircraft across a number of different business jet families.

With its headquarters in Wichita, the self-proclaimed air capital of the world, the company is associated with smaller jet aircraft. Until the recent unveiling of the yet-to-fly Citation Hemisphere, the furthest that you could fly in a Citation was 3,425nm. The Hemisphere, when it enters service in 2021, will be the largest Citation ever built. And it will fly the farthest.

Cessna also holds the record for the fastest business jet currently in production. When the Citation X entered into service in 1996, it had a maximum speed of Mach .92. Gulfstream’s G650 matched this when it was introduced in 2012, but Cessna fought back when it introduced the Citation X+ with a top speed of Mach .935.

When you buy a Citation you get a reliable aircraft that will serve you for years. Just like when buying a car, an important factor to consider when you’re buying an aircraft is where you can take it if a problem or fault occurs. Cessna has by far the largest network of both OEM and licensed service centers all around the world.

The current in-product Citation aircraft are mostly derivatives of older models. These include the Citation M2, a derivative of the CJ1+, and the Citation Latitude, which shares much in common with the Sovereign+.

Elsewhere, the other Citation aircraft currently available are incremental upgrades on older models. The most successful of these is the CitationJet family. Although the original CJ has now been replaced by the Citation M2, they both retain the same construction number sequence.

The first CitationJet was delivered in 1993 and, by the time the aircraft was upgraded, Cessna had delivered 359 of the original model. A slightly updated version, called the CJ1, was then introduced in 2000; it included an updated avionics suite and a higher maximum takeoff weight.

Also introduced in 2000 was the larger CJ2. This was a five-foot stretch of the CJ1, allowing a maximum of eight passengers rather than the seven passengers that the CJ1 could carry.

Another hugely popular line for Cessna has been the Citation Excel, with the Citation XLS+ still being produced. Including all variants, the family has sold more than 950 aircraft.

The original Citation Excel came about as a mix of other aircraft. Cessna wanted an aircraft with a larger cabin cross section than the Citation V line, so used a shortened version of the Citation X fuselage. The wing was based on the Citation V Ultra’s wing, and the tail was from the Citation V. The engines used were variants of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW500 engines that also had homes on the Citation Bravo and Citation Encore.

The aircraft flew for the first time in February 1996. Certification came in April 1998, with Cessna saying that it had more than 200 orders for the aircraft at that time.

There has been two upgraded versions since the original Citation Excel. The Citation XL was introduced in 2004 and had uprated engines and a glass cockpit. The current in-production Citation XLS+ entered service in 2008 and includes updated avionics, uprated FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Controls) engines, and a slightly modified nose section.

The chart above, with data from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), has been normalised to include aircraft families, rather than showing the data by individual types.

This has not been done for the CitationJet range. Where an incremental upgrade (‘plussing’ the aircraft, to use the Textron parlance) has been introduced, these aircraft have been included in the numbers for the original model. A jump in the families, from CJ3 to CJ4, have all been kept as separate entries.

Deliveries of all aircraft broadly follow the same pattern. Spikes occurring during the first year of delivery denote the first set of deliveries, as Cessna pushes out as many aircraft as possible to clear the backlog of aircraft built before the type certification was gained. Deliveries then slow into a pattern, with minor peaks and troughs that fall broadly in line with the rest of the industry.

As with the rest of the industry, the years between 2008 and 2010 saw the highest number of deliveries, with a sharp dropoff following the global financial crisis.

In between those years, though, Cessna introduced the largest member of the CitationJet family to date, the CJ4. In its first two years of deliveries, Cessna shipped out 50 CJ4s, which went a little way towards offsetting the declines in deliveries of other models.

Cessna holds the current record for the highest number of deliveries of an aircraft type in a single year. In 2009, it delivered 125 Citation Mustangs – an all-time record and one that doesn’t look like changing any time soon.

What’s next for Cessna?

Cessna currently has two different aircraft in the pipeline. The first of these is the Citation Longitude, which is due to be certificated later in 2017. The second is the Citation Hemisphere, which is due to fly for the first time in 2019.

The Citation Longitude was first announced during the 2012 EBACE show in Geneva, Switzerland. The original aircraft that Cessna presentation had a maximum range of 4,000nm, and was due to be powered by a pair of Snecma Silvercrests. But, during 2014’s NBAA, Cessna let slip that it might be taking the Longitude back to the drawing board.

The immediate speculation was that the Longitude might be going the same way as the company’s cancelled Citation Columbus, but Cessna quashed this, saying that it might be taking a look another look at the aircraft.

The Citation Longitude that was re-announced by Cessna in October 2015 uses the same fuselage cross section of the Citation Latitude, but uses a T-Tail design rather than the Latitude’s cruciform tail. Cessna also swapped the engines from the Silvercrests to Honeywell HTF7700Ls, and the range dropped to 3,400nm.

Externally, the aircraft is strikingly similar to the Hawker 4000, aside from the nose, which retains the familiar stylings of the Citation range.

Cessna later upped the range, taking it to 3,500nm, and moved forward certification and entry into service to late 2017.

Ironically, the Snecma Silvercrest engines that were originally due to power the Citation Longitude will be powering Cessna’s other aircraft in development, the Citation Hemisphere.

Launched during the 2015 NBAA exhibition, the Citation Hemisphere is a large cabin business jet that can fly up to 4,500nm, taking the crown of the farthest flying Citation by more than 1,000nm.

It will have the largest cabin of any aircraft in its class, and will be able to carry up to 12 passengers. However, all of the other aircraft in the same class as the Hemisphere are based on older designs that their respective manufacturers could soon be looking to replace.

Although the newer technology on the Hemisphere will help it win new orders, Cessna will first look towards loyal Citation customers to upgrade through the line.

Once the Hemisphere is released, Textron Aviation will have an almost complete aviation solution. It builds small single-engine aircraft that are used in flying schools around the world. Through its Bell Helicopter subsidiary, it makes helicopters. Through its acquisition of Beechcraft, it builds business turboprops and, through Citation, it builds business jets.

The one thing that was always missing from the line-up was range. Cessna is finally addressing this with the Hemisphere, which will hopefully be the beginning of a larger, more capable product family.