To a Citation jet owner, more is always better. The choices in the Cessna Citation family are varied and plentiful; from Mustang to Citation X+, each one offering varying amounts of speed, seats and style. A few more nautical miles of range, increased cruise speed, better avionics – there’s always something to be gained by trading up.
Stuart Fred, a Houston, Texas-based commercial real estate entrepreneur, is highly knowledgeable when it comes to the Citation family. He’s owned several Citations, flown most of the competitors and has logged more than 4,000 hours in jets, including time in a pair of Aero L39 Albatros trainers he owns. His business interests are scattered all across the southern half of the United States, making fast, capable travel a critical part of his success. His CJ’s have helped him keep on top of managing properties throughout the growth of the Bomasada Group, of which he’s President.
Fred grew up fascinated with airplanes, darting out the door, like a lot of us, whenever one flew over. His obsession was indulged by his parents, and he mowed lawns and saved money after paying the $5 introductory flight Cessna was offering at Cruise Aviation on Hobby Airport in Houston, starting lessons at age 15. Nine months later, he soloed at 16. After college, he worked his way up the ownership ladder from a Cessna Cardinal to a Piper Arrow IV and then to a normally-aspirated 1979 210 Centurion, a fine traveling companion that he only recently sold. He credits his first instructor with the creed that has helped him make the right piloting
decisions throughout his flying career; “Stuart,” his instructor would say, “if there’s any doubt, there’s no doubt.”
“Heeding his advice, I still occasionally cancel trips,” Fred says. “Primarily, if I’m not comfortable with the forecasted weather and with being able to complete the flight safely and comfortably for my passengers or myself, I’m simply not going.”
The Route To Jets
Fred’s journey into jets grew with the company he founded; he acquired a multi-engine rating in a Baron at Lakeside airport in Houston, flew a Cessna 310 and 421, but knew that something more capable was needed if he was to maintain his travel schedule. He took a production slot for one of the first Citation Mustangs, but bought a CJ instead, later moving to a CJ1 and eventually to a CJ3, which he flew for seven years.
“The CJ3 was a different world, compared to the smaller CJs, allowing me to tanker fuel for round trips to the East Coast, rather than fill up at every stop.” He could now buy 100 gallons of Jet-A and return home, where the company has its own fuel facilities. An opportunity to sell the CJ3 presented itself, so Fred stepped back to a new CJ2+ for a while. The needs of the business required more capability, however, and the CJ3+ was considered, but he decided that a CJ4 made the most sense.
Stuart Fred took delivery of the new CJ4 in early 2015, and couldn’t be happier with his choice. “Systems-wise, it’s just a lot more capable aircraft. The electrical system is practically failure-proof, with two alternators added to the two starter/generators, and the 3,621 pounds/thrust Williams FJ44-4A FADEC engines offer the highest thrust-to-weight ratio of all the Cessna Citations. It has single-point fueling, electrically-heated windshields, an externally-serviced lavatory, a 3,000-psi hydraulic system and most importantly, the Collins Pro-Line 21 panel with one more display, a very robust, capable four-tube avionics system.”
Because the bigger, swept-wing CJ4 can still be flown with the same C-525 type rating, a two-day differences course at FlightSafety was the only additional training requirement to be met. However, Fred adheres to a six-month recurrency schedule, like the airlines, and firmly believes in regular FlightSafety International visits. At this point, FSI’s Wichita Learning Center is home to the only CJ4 simulator.
Putting The CJ4 To Work
The CJ4 is used for both personal and business flying. Fred can load up four to seven people with bags and fly 1,900 nautical miles with reserves. His average trip length is about 1:45, perfect for the typical four-passenger load. Fred’s CJ4 is fitted with eight seats in the cabin. Even so, Fred says a 4,000-foot runway is adequate; “if you adhere to the numbers within the AFM, you’re good to go. The airplane delivers the numbers the book says.” The best working altitude is FL43-450, which can be justified for flights of 1:15 or longer, burning 980 pph at altitude, and staying five knots under the barberpole delivers a TAS of about 425 knots. Down lower, the CJ4 can be cranked up to more than 450 knots, but at a much greater fuel burn. Mmo is a very non-CJ-like .77 Mach, thanks to 12.5 degrees of wing sweep. On a typical trip of 900 nautical miles, the CJ4 will consume 400 pounds more fuel than the CJ2+ does, but will get there 20 minutes quicker.
At 17,000 pounds, the CJ4 is just a bigger, more solid airplane than its predecessors. The entry door is wider than the other CJs, designed to hold pressurization without an inflatable seal, and a four-panel variable-opening speed-brake system is available to control descent. And it offers a significant advance in systems, as the CJ4 was a clean-sheet design, not an upgrade of the CJ airframe. The cabin is 20 inches longer than the CJ3’s, and slightly wider as well, thanks to Cessna’s redesign of the interior. The airplane is just a significant step up as compared to the CJ lineage, Fred says, with nicer interior finishes and cabinetry. The airplane is sometimes referred to as a “Baby Sovereign.” Fred praises the wonderful support from Cessna, including, at the top of his list, the Mobile Service Unit that can be dispatched to an AOG customer anywhere in the U.S.
The CJ4 was created to give light-jet buyers a fresh upgrade option, positioned right below the smallest mid-size general aviation jets but with comparable capabilities. The first small Citation with a swept wing, the new airfoil has 12.5% more area than the CJ3’s and holds 1,100 pounds more fuel. NBAA-reserves range is a bit over 2,000 nautical miles and that’s with max-cruise power at FL450.
How’s It Fly?
Handling-wise, upgrading CJ4 pilots can expect more of the same CJ mannerisms of the smaller models. There’s a stick-shaker, but no pusher, thanks to mild stall characteristics. The trailing-link main gear design delivers consistent smooth touchdowns, compared to the original Citation’s stubby legs. The CJ4’s gear span is narrower than the broad stance of earlier CJ’s, which is beneficial on restricted taxiways.
The cockpit retains the Citation look, with big yokes mounted through the floor. The pedestal is short, containing power levers, the spoiler and flap handles, and an array of trim switches; there’s no manual pitch-trim wheel. As with most newer general aviation jet designs, the CJ4 has a simpler, cleaner cockpit, with fewer rows of circuit breakers and annunciator lights. Most abnormalities are displayed via a CAS message, presented on the ProLine 21 displays in plain language.
Starting is push-button easy, entirely automated, and steering and braking is still pedal operated; the brakes are powered by a separate hydraulic system from the gear and speed brake/ground spoiler system. Expect CJ-like runway performance numbers, even in the bigger CJ4; max-weight V1 is 102 knots, with V2 at 116. And climb it will; at 240 knots, the CJ4’s climb rate is over 4,000 fpm. Be careful to get the gear up before its operating limit speed of 200 knots is exceeded, as the airplane accelerates quickly.
On approach, full flaps can be selected with IAS as high as 160 knots, using the incremental speed brakes as needed. Vref numbers are typically just over 100 knots, more if heavy, less if light. Cessna engineers have managed to keep the CJ4’s standard-day runway requirements under 3,000 feet, thanks to anti-skid brakes and six panels of ground spoilers, actuated by the speed-brake lever.
Stuart Fred’s latest CJ is the best yet, by most accounts, taking this most recent of the Textron light jet series in a direction far removed from its predecessors. It’s a great ride.