Cessna Adds Improvements To Its CJ3
Cessna’s hot-selling Citation Jet CJ3 has long been a highly sought-after light jet, representing as it does one of the most-capable owner-flown airplanes on the market. Easily cruising at over 400 knots and delivering a range of 1800-2000 nautical miles, it can fill the bill for small corporate flight departments and individuals.
There are 432 CJ3s working in the fleet, and the recent introduction of the CJ3+ has already added another 15 or so. The “Plus” enhancements resulted from market studies and customer inputs, bringing a major updating of the CJ3’s interior and avionics while keeping the basic features that have made the airplane so popular.
The CJ3+ fits nicely between the short-cabin CJs and the larger CJ4, priced about $1-million less than the CJ4 and offering a relatively-familiar step-up for already-typed CJ and CJ2 owners. Its new Garmin G3000 avionics represent the biggest change over the CJ3, which carried the Rockwell Collins ProLine 21 suite. Garmin-familiar prospects will now find the CJ3+ particularly attractive. However, there’s a lot more to the CJ3+ than just a new panel.
What Makes It A CJ3+?
The cabin appointments have been given a major updating, and the cockpit received some attention for the working crew; stylish new leather-wrapped yokes adorn the control columns, and there’s better access and legroom up front. An armrest-mounted push-to-talk switch now allows response to ATC without disturbing the yoke on when autopilot. A second auxiliary battery has been added, so the avionics can be powered up right away, and it also provides additional time on emergency power if both generators should go out.
The CJ3+ offers maintenance improvements over the CJ3, such as LED lighting throughout, and Cessna’s AReS system records extensive data from the last 25 hours of flight time, accessible on the ground to troubleshoot maintenance problems. A new Kollsman KAPS II pressurization controller integrates with the FMS to automatically schedule cabin pressure. The 8.9 psi maximum differential provides an 8,000-foot cabin altitude at the 45,000-foot certification limit. There’s a new Clairity cabin management system and the entrance stairs now look and operate more like a business jet’s entry should.
Last January, we were given the opportunity to fly the CJ3+ at Textron Aviation’s sprawling west-Wichita campus on the east side of Dwight D. Eisenhower International airport (formerly Wichita Municipal/Mid Continent airport). It was a Chamber of Commerce day in the Kansas Air Capitol, with light winds and balmy CAVU conditions across the plains. Befitting the presentation of a new model, we were met with a contingent of marketing and corporate communications personnel, anxious to show off their newest product.
Demo pilots John Reimer and Alex Marks introduced me to Mike Pierce, manager of technical marketing, who filled me in on the history and development of the CJ3+. The first CitationJet 525 appeared in 1993, an efficient light jet that reprised the original Citation 500’s theme created 21 years earlier. The CJ combined a new natural-laminar-flow wing section with Williams Engineering’s FJ-44 engine, producing 30 knots more cruise speed on 600 pounds less total thrust. That recipe has worked well through the evolution of the CJ line, including the CJ3 that was introduced in 2004.
Reimer then walked me around N30CJ, a well-groomed demonstrator aircraft that was actually the first production airplane off the line. Beginning at the vault-like 12-pin double-seal door, he showed the bleed-air inflatable seal that presses a passive seal into place; even if the active seal fails, flight can continue as high as 35,000 feet. The door has a hold-open brace that reportedly can keep it from slamming shut in winds up to 40 knots. The revamped fold-out stairs now have closed backing behind the treads and a metal threshold replaces a carpeted step-in. A snubber cylinder drops the steps smoothly into place.
Most of the CJ3+’s airframe follows the earlier pattern. Because the NLF wing requires a super-smooth fit and finish to deliver optimum performance, the leading edge is anti-iced by hot compressor bleed air, not boots, with no detectable joint between ice shield and wing skin. The 20-degree swept horizontal stabilizer is booted, but the vertical fin requires no protection. The windshield is primarily protected by hot bleed air, backed up with an alcohol spray. Engine inlets are also bleed-air heated. The fuselage sits atop what is essentially a one-piece wing, faired by carefully-tailored fillets, carrying most plumbing and wiring outside the pressure vessel, accessible through removable side panels for maintenance.
The CJ3+’s external and internal lighting has been converted to LED illumination, including the twin landing/recognition lights in the forward edge of the under-fuselage fairing, along with wingtip nav lights and strobes. Up forward, the 400-pound capacity nose baggage bin can hold four sets of standard golf clubs or the crew’s baggage (to keep it from going to the passengers’ hotel). Given the lighter avionics installation on the CJ3+, normal procedure is to place baggage in the nose first, for C.G. purposes.
The radome has only two visible fasteners; for secure servicing, the other hold-downs must be reached internally, through the avionics bay. The nose compartment has inspection points for the 50-cu/ft standby oxygen bottle, back-up windshield deice alcohol, and nitrogen charge for the emergency gear extension and braking. Reimer said that he has never had to use the spray bar for the windshield, and the landing gear actually free-falls into place when initially released, with no N2 assist.
As with all CJs, the maingear utilizes a trailing-link design that assures reasonable landings despite the pilot’s ineptitude. The gear, flaps and spoilers are powered by a central hydraulic system housed in the right lower fuselage fairing. Maingear tires are 22 x 7.75-10 size, nestled into open wells under the wing, spanning 16 feet. The nosewheel carries an 18 x 44 chined tire; the rudder-pedal steering allows 20 degrees of movement, and will caster up to 84 degrees with braking, so the lanky CJ3+ can maneuver in tight quarters.
The CJ3+’s wet-wing fuel tanks hold 703 gallons, serviced through ports near the tips; the CJ4, other the other hand, features single-point pressure fueling, among its other big-plane details. Fuel heaters obviate the need for anti-icing additives in the fuel. There is no fuel management unless crossfeed is selected. The ailerons feature a flow-control fence at their inboard ends, and a trim tab is found on the left aileron. Flaps are selectable in 15 and 35-degree detents, with a 55-degree lift-dump setting only available after touchdown, at which point the spoilers also deploy out of the top and bottom of the wings. The lower speedbrakes are perforated for greater effectiveness.
A huge 600-lb, 50-cubic foot aft baggage compartment, capable of storing skis, is reached through a door on the left side of the rear fuselage. The 44-amp NiCad (or optional lead/acid) battery and electrical junction box are behind the compartment and the engine fire bottle is in the overhead.
The impressive T-tail empennage towers over 15 feet above the ramp, and the Williams FJ44-3A engine nacelles are above head height; for preflight, the oil sight gauge is easily checked through a small door and the oil filter bypass pop-out is felt for its normal position. If oil is to be added, go get a ladder. The engines have no thrust reversers or attenuator paddles; the FADEC system allows for a lower idle that doesn’t require a great deal of braking, and the anti-skid brakes and lift-dumping flaps and spoilers give plenty of stopping power.
The sumptuous interior welcomes passengers with facing club seats, plus two seats aft and a belted side-facing lavatory seat. The solid sliding doors for the lav are latched open for takeoff and landing because the overwing emergency exit is located in the right rear. The two aft seats have their own foldout worktables. Three AC power outlets are available, two in the cabin and one in the cockpit. Each seat has a USB power port and the Clairity entertainment and information system allows connectivity to personal devices. Reimer showed the aft club seat’s ability to be slid back into an unoccupied rear seat’s leg space, if greater stretchout room is desired with a light load. Most importantly, he pointed out that the forward refreshment center’s coffeepot is now reachable from the cockpit; it can be swapped out for a side-facing bench seat if desired.
Ready to go flying, we reviewed the mission profile. With 4,000 pounds of fuel and three people on board, we were at roughly 13,000 pounds for start-up, so we would be down to the 12,750 maximum-landing weight in short order. Reimer said that the CJ3+ will carry about 660 pounds of payload in the cabin with full fuel; of course, leaving out a mere 100 gallons of fuel will double that figure. He counts on using 1100-1200 pounds of fuel for the first hour of flight and an 800 PPH average fuel burn thereafter. Our flight plan was for a filed altitude of 43,000 feet to the west, over VARNR intersection, then south to Mitbee VOR in Oklahoma, east to Enid, then back to Anthony VOR and Wichita for the recovery.
Entering the restyled cockpit, we noted that the seat tracks are longer to enhance legroom and it was relatively easy to thread our way around the redesigned pedestal. The rudder pedals are adjustable as well. The flight controls are sturdy transport-style yokes, connected to honest no-nonsense cables; none of this fly-by-wire midget-stick stuff. There’s a nice big pitch trim wheel right by your knee. No stick-pusher protection is required, only a stick-shaker for stall warning. The CJ3+’s front office feels like a real flight deck.
Modernity is abundantly found in the CJ3+’s operating features; much of the former switching and testing has been eliminated or automated. The rotary systems-test knob of earlier CJ’s is now incorporated into the GTC 570 controller. There is no avionics switch, because when the main battery is on, the G3000 suite is powered up. There’s no anti-skid brake switch to bother with, and the anti-collision beacon activates with the first engine-start button. As much as possible, the pilot’s life has been simplified. There’s no noisy air-cycle machine, just heat-exchanger cooled bleed air and a vapor-cycle air conditioner for hot weather, available to precool the cabin with a GPU.
We engaged the partial-avionics dispatch switch to obtain ATIS and clearance before starting, then brought up full battery power for the fully-automated engine start, now controlled from the pedestal rather than the left side. All that’s needed is pressing the “start” button and pushing a power lever up an inch or so. Although the FADEC should prevent an exceedance, we still guarded the shut-down latch in case the computer wasn’t working fast enough. Temperature peaked out around 670 C. and the generator came on line as soon as the 53% idle stabilized. Although we didn’t do it, the checklist shows single-engine taxiout as an option, if a lengthy hold is anticipated.
The 14.1-inch G3000 panels were now alive, showing our position on a nice taxi diagram, and we moved out of the delivery ramp with a shove on the throttles; steering is positive and light. There’s a trailer-truck size to be accommodated as one swings the CJ3+ around taxi turns, but the wide range of nosegear movement makes it easy. Only occasionally did I have to resort to braking to keep speed down on long straight runs. I found little grabbing and jerking with the powered anti-skid brakes, so the passengers should be happy.
Pretakeoff checks are short; flaps were set to 15 degrees to lower the V2 number, and we did a rudder-bias test by running up each engine in turn to feel the opposing rudder pedal begin to move. Reimer warned me that I could expect an engine cut at any time, but not to get excited when it happened. V1 was 98 knots, Vr was 101 and V2 was 111. Acceleration was a rush when we pushed the levers through the FADEC detents to the five-minute takeoff power setting. We were up to Vr when the right engine went to idle, but, like Reimer said, the rudder bias kicked in and all we had to do was bank a little to port and watch the VSI settle into a 1,000 fpm single-engine climb. Powered back up, the climb rate shot up to 4,000 fpm initially; the maximum gear operating speed is 200 knots.
Sliding the levers back to the “climb” MCT detent, we climbed at 230 knots, showing 95.7% N1 and a beginning fuel flow of about 1,000 PPH. At FL180, the G3000 asked us to confirm the change to standard baro. By then, we had engaged the autopilot, with its controls in the glareshield coaming, where it allows one to keep eyes out front and watch a PNF’s inputs. Out of FL200, we were climbing at 2,700 fpm at 224 knots IAS, later transitioning to .55 Mach. At FL300 the rate was still 2,700 fpm, indicating 200 knots, and by FL400 we were still showing 1,600 fpm at 160 knots.
We reached FL430 in 19:40 minutes, well under book predictions for our weight, which computed to be 12,439 pounds at TOC. The day’s conditions at altitude were ISA +7 degrees, which Reimer actually prefers operationally over straight-ISA because the cruise power setting doesn’t have to be brought back to stay under the overspeed limit. Cruise N1 of 96.8% didn’t reduce materially from climb power; in due course, we settled in at a TAS of 420 knots, drawing 840 PPH through the pipes. The handbook chart showed an expected cruise speed of 396 knots in our configuration; Reimer says he typically exceeds the chart’s numbers significantly. Long range cruise setting would have reduced cruise speed by about 50 knots but fuel flow would have gone down to just over 600 pph.
Cleared to begin descent as we rounded the corner for home, the overspeed klaxon came on with a slight lowering of the nose, so it was back to a clean idle for a 3,000 fpm letdown. The G3000 system features an incapacitation mode that automatically descends the aircraft to 15,000 feet if cabin altitude goes above 14,500 feet. With 8.9 psi differential on duty, we experienced no such problem.
We set up for the ILS 19L at ICT, toggled into place, G1000 style, by the touch screen controllers above the power pedestal. Pilots familiar with Garmin panels in their earlier rides will find the G3000 architecture easy to follow, with short menus and logical icons. Vref was computed as a low 106 knots; Reimer ordered me to stand on the anti-skid brakes as hard as I could after touchdown. Maneuvering level at 160 knots took about 55% N1, and we deployed 15-degree flaps, allowed below 200 knots. Additional flaps go out below 161 knots. Gear-down at the FAF, the CJ3+ rode along the glideslope on rails with little power change. I crossed the threshold at 110 knots and found plenty of float in the broad wings, feeling for the CJ’s low flare height. Touchdown was softened by the articulated gear and I did my best to accommodate Reimer’s braking request as he lifted the flap lever into ground mode. Even on my first try, we made the 3,000-foot turnoff, and when I did more traffic pattern work I was getting comfortable with his target of the 2,000-foot first-turnoff. In truth, hand-flying the big CJ3+ is about like flying a C206 in the pattern.
For a single-pilot operator, the CJ3+ is a very low-workload, but very capable, airplane. It does its job without surprises, using a formula that Cessna has had 40 years to perfect. This latest CJ is going to be a strong seller for Textron Aviation.