The outgoing Cessna Citation X received a host of improvements prior to bowing out in style. John O’Connell looks at the ultimate incarnation of a world-beater
ALL good things come to an end and flying machines are no exception to this rule; in the latter part of 2012, Cessna completed and sold the last of the Cessna C750 Citation Xs, bringing to an end the model that started life in record-breaking style in 1996.
Now this may sound like a strange move on Cessna’s part considering the veteran X’s unique abilities and success, but in reality they are making way for the new faster/roomier/greener Citation X due later this year. Well, they were going to call it the TEN, but then relented to public pressure and called it the New X.
The New X is a real step forward in every sense: it is once again the fastest civilian aircraft in the world achieving a blistering .935 Mach. It has a lengthened fuselage and a greatly improved stylish and modernised cabin which should improve passenger comfort.
The engines are uprated Rolls-Royce AE3007C2 powerplants with new fans, and the flightdeck is furnished with the ultra-modern and user-friendly Garmin G5000 avionics suite with 14-in screens. All of these improvements, combined with a range of 3242nm, should ensure the New X remains at the top of its game for many years to come.
But in the understandable anticipation of the next generation X, the final iteration of the outgoing model has been a little overlooked – and given that it features its own set of improvements, it would be a tragedy not to see what legacy this ultimate ‘old’ X will leave.
Hands on with the best in breed
I had the opportunity to visit the Citation X production line in Wichita on a delivery flight and witness one of the final machines being constructed, and subsequently flew one of them throughout Europe. It makes sense with such a long lifespan ahead of them, to compare these last-of-breed models with the other 300+ in service.
Whilst the overall design of the Citation X has remained the same since the early 1990s, the final Xs to roll off the Wichita production line were the most advanced examples of the type to be produced.
The aim of this article is to give you an insight into the improvements and upgrades on this already outstanding machine and to see what the future holds for this type and the next generation of this fabulous flying machine.
You cannot write about the Citation X without mentioning its appearance and in my opinion, the X is still the best looking business jet out there. Physically, the latest and final Citation X is almost identical to the earlier variants. It is still a purposeful powerful looking ship with its beefy tail section and its two enormous Rolls-Royce/Allison A3007C1 turbines dominating this thoroughbred’s appearance, especially up close.
However, there is one major difference and that is the addition of elliptical winglets. These advanced carbon/epoxy devices have a blade-like appearance and are blended seamlessly into the impressive transonic wing to give an ultra-modern, flowing and almost fluid like appearance. With the winglets installed, it is an even sexier flying machine than before.
These elliptical winglets not only help to enhance the appearance of this already beautiful machine but they also help to improve efficiency too. They increase the effective aspect ratio of a wing without increasing the structural loads that a greater wingspan would require. The winglets help the X to climb to altitude quicker without any performance loss on the way to the top thus increasing its overall range. They also provide increased speed at higher levels and improved takeoff performance.
Winglet Technologies of Wichita in conjunction with Cessna have designed the fastest winglets in the world and they will be fitted as standard to the New X. Incidentally, Winglet Technologies offer a retrofit winglet kit for older Citation Xs which can be fitted at most Citation Service Centres throughout the world.
As you walk towards it, you know there is something very special about the machine. It sits there on the ramp like a formula one car, ready for business. I have been flying Xs for six years, yet its appearance and real sense of presence never fails to impress me. And not just me… recently a very excited German Air Force F-4 Phantom driver approached me whilst we were parked on a ramp in the UK. He proceeded to tell me how the X was his favourite aircraft of all time both in the looks and performance department, and then asked me if we could we swap mounts! Needless to say, I had to decline his generous offer.
Fast and luxurious
You enter the X through the stairs which are located on the port side of the fuselage, just to the rear of the cockpit. The cabin on the X is not the most spacious in its class but the plane was designed for getting people from A to B in the fastest time possible and there has to be a trade off somewhere.
That said, the Citation X cabin is very luxurious indeed and I have never had a passenger complain about the cabin dimensions. There are many optional extras with a variety of different seating configurations available, but a general standard is four generous LCD display screens in the cabin and a larger flatscreen at the forward end of the cabin. Additional extras include the likes of worldwide internet, satphone, Airshow, and the ability to play Blu-ray discs.
As would be expected, the main passenger, bench, and toilet seats are all upholstered in the finest leather. The double club four seats are fully adjustable and track outward to provide extra room and a more pleasant travelling experience for the passengers. There are four stylish fold out mahogany tables which are partly covered in leather, big enough to cater for two passengers each.
The cabin windows are a good size and the blinds are electronically operated, individually or by utilising a master control. Each seat has an associated control panel for lighting, audio, video, window blind etc, and there is a master control panel which is available to the lead passenger. This cabin master control panel is duplicated and positioned rear of the flight deck in the galley area.
The galley is located behind the cockpit and there is plenty of storage space available in this area considering the overall size of cabin. There is also an oven and two heated water containers located nearby. A foldaway jump seat is an optional extra, and all Xs come with wooden double sliding cockpit doors.
Whilst not being as spacious as types such as the Challenger 300, the cabin dimensions are very comfortable for an aircraft in this midsize class and with the drop aisle it is possible to stand up in there if you are 6ft tall or less. I don’t usually get to enjoy the experience of being a passenger in a Citation X but have done Wichita to London in the passenger cabin and it was a very pleasurable experience. The noise levels in the cabin are quite low and the main impression of speed comes as you see through the window all the other jets you are overtaking.
Up front in the office…
The cockpit in the later model X is almost identical to the earlier machines, and still a relatively tight squeeze. The standard C750 cockpit layout caters for two crew with two sheepskin-covered crew seats which are comfortable and fully adjustable. Visibility from the cockpit is excellent especially in the takeoff and landing phase.
There is a large centre console where you will find items such as the power levers, dual FMS, RMUs, IRS, trim controls, and weather radar and master Airshow controls. The X has two standard control yolks which are mounted on pedestals; rudder pedals with toe brakes and a tiller for steering on the ground is located on the captain’s side. Circuit breakers are located to the left of the captain’s seat and right of the co-pilot and the vast majority of switches and controls are where they should be. However, as with most of Cessna’s products, there is a distinct lack of switches on the cockpit ceiling. The only items to be found up there are the cockpit satphone, air vents and the crew Air Show monitor.
The most noticeable difference in the cockpit between the newer and older machines is the addition of five LCD display units (DUs) as opposed to the old Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT). These come as part of the Honeywell Primus Elite avionics suite. The Elite avionics suite looks almost identical to the older Primus 2000 suite and includes sophisticated and user friendly displays featuring powerful graphics which provide the improved clarity of liquid crystal display (LCD) technology.
Safety enhancements include XM Graphical Weather, Jeppesen electronic charts and maps and video display capability, all enabled through a cursor control interface. The Jeppesen database includes a full library of all required charts which include, SIDs, STARs, approaches, and airport diagrams, all of which have a moving aircraft symbol reflecting the aircraft’s position on the chart in real time.
The new avionics system helps to improve situational awareness and as an added bonus the whole package weighs 45lb less than the older Primus 2000 system. The Primus Elite system really brings the flightdeck up to date, as in my opinion the older Primus 2000 flightdeck was definitely showing its age.
In your hands
There is little difference to the handling characteristics of the X fitted with winglets in comparison to the older examples. The only area of note is that it feels slightly more slippery than the older non-winglet models. However with the excellent speed brakes applied this is not a problem and the jet slows down very well indeed.
As with the older models, there is still that slight delay or dead area in control inputs due to the powered controls but the X is still a sweet machine to fly. Plenty of redundancy too: three generators, two separate hydraulic systems, two cabin PACs and a split bus electrical system to name but a few.
These days, in the world of commercial aviation, we rarely get the opportunity to really hand fly an aircraft other than recurrent training in the simulator. So, to my delight, I recently had the opportunity to fully hand fly the X for a test flight.
We carried out some steep turns, climbing and descending maneuvers, stalls and general handling. I disconnected the autopilot, put the flight director on standby and in my mind, I was back in a C208 or C310 as far as controllability was concerned.
If you bear in mind that the X is such a high performance machine, it has very few vices; it flies beautifully, just like a much smaller and simple aircraft. She was a joy to hand fly around the sky. The roll rate is excellent as a result of the combined spoiler and aileron design and the stalls were a complete non-event.
When our training detail came to an end, I felt slightly reluctant to reconnect the automation for our return to base due to the fact that I was enjoying myself so much. If you consider that not so many years ago, there were plenty of aircraft out there with far inferior performance to the X which could really bite you if you were carrying out general handling and stalls and so on, it really speaks volumes about the X’s handling qualities.
When I fly other aircraft I realise how good the performance on the X actually is and how spoiled us X drivers actually are. It is normal for us to climb at .80 Mach and sometimes .85 Mach!
The winglets enable you to go straight to FL430 at maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) when ISA is +10 and this is where you really feel the benefits of these devices. It is also possible to go straight to FL470 at 34,000lb takeoff weight (TOW) and ISA temperatures. This really helps to give you that extra range you may need, especially if you are crossing the pond.
When the X is up there at the higher levels of 430 and above, it feels like you are making fuel. That is how good the aircraft is – it’s remarkable. The X really shrinks the world and one prime example of this is in crossing the Atlantic which becomes a relatively quick trip and London to Boston can be done in approximately six hours.
The total fuel capacity of the X’s three fuel tanks combined is 13,000lb and single point refueling is standard. There is also the ability to carry out over-wing fuelling.
Another advantage the winglets will give you is a marked improvement to 1st and 2nd segment climb gradients which is an ideal asset when operating from terrain-limiting airfields.
As always, the X is powerful. It is a complete rocketship in comparison to other machines in its class and as a pilot, good throttle control is crucial to prevent exceeding the maximum speeds for various flap and landing gear configurations at low levels. The X flies really well at low speeds especially with the leading edge slats extended and the flaps at 5, 15 or 35 degrees. I really enjoy hand flying the X in the approach phase.
Again, the winglets do not seem to create any noticeable change in handling characteristics in the landing phase. As crew, the only indication you have that your aircraft is equipped with winglets is for you to have a good look out the window and in my opinion this is a good thing because you obviously gain the positive aspects of the winglets without altering the machines handling qualities.
Be prepared to assert yourself…
THE X is probably not the easiest machine to land in a stiff crosswind. The max demonstrated crosswind component is 21kt and in blustery conditions you really have to grab the bull by the horns and fly that machine all the way until it comes to a complete stop. However, the trailing link undercarriage is very forgiving and copes well with firm arrivals in blustery conditions.
The brakes are incredibly powerful and the thrust reversers are effective. The landing performance figures are quite conservative but you can really get the X stopped quickly if needs be.
I have had some good times and interesting experiences over the years operating the X but overall, I thoroughly enjoy flying the machine and from a business jet Captain’s perspective, I highly recommend this capable platform as a business aviation tool.
Even though ‘original’ model has just ceased production, I have no doubt that the X will remain a much admired, appreciated and widely operated machine for many years to come. As I have mentioned in the past, it has a special commodity in the midsize business aviation world and that commodity is speed.
Even with the advent of the New X, the original X will definitely soldier on and be flying high when many of its competitors are in the boneyard.
When non-aviation people hear about the fastest civilian jet in the world, most automatically think it must be produced by a mammoth organisation such as Boeing or Lockheed Martin.
When it sinks in that the manufacturer of the X is a company which primarily and historically focused on light aircraft, I think this speaks volumes about Cessna’s proactive approach to aircraft production and the team behind these exceptional products.
I am very much looking forward to flying the New X and if the new machine is anywhere as good as its predecessor, I have no doubt that there will be at least another 300 flying throughout the world over the next 20 years.
Best of luck to Cessna and their new speed machine.
BACK TO BACK UP FRONT
THE New Citation X features a host of small tweaks and improvements from front to back – plus one enormous change in the cockpit.
The New X will see the first roll-out of Garmin’s new touchscreen controlled G5000 avionics suite, ousting the Honeywell Primus Elite system in the outgoing model.
The G5000 represents the first step by Garmin into heavier transport category Part 25 aircraft, with takeoff weights over 12,500lb and requiring two pilots.
After aggressively moving into lighter and smaller GA aircraft, the G5000 will mirror much of the screen processes of the popular G1000 system, but much enhanced with additional power and controlled by small touchscreens the eliminate the need for rows of switches and knobs.
Cessna has already said it will use the G5000 in its new Latitude and Longitude jets as well as the X, as have Learjet for the new 70 and 75, and it’s clear that the G5000 is targeting bigger jets too.
It has every system you would expect in a jet of this size, including synthetic vision and enhanced infra-red vision, and new editions such as well as speech-to-text and voice recognition, and is an insight into the work being carried out to make the pilot’s life easier.
|Old X||New X|
|Length||72ft 4in||73ft 7in|
|Height||19ft 2in||19ft 3in|
|Wingspan||69ft 2in||69ft 2in|
|Length||23ft 9in||25ft 2in|
|Width||5ft 6in||5ft 6in|
|Height||5ft 8in||5ft 8in|
|MMO||Mach 0.92||Mach 0.935|