Jet Journal: Why I Love the Citation Mustang

Jet Journal: Why I Love the Citation Mustang

Entry-level Model 510 is a simpler and better first jet.

I learned to fly in a Cessna 150 in 1980. What a thrill it was for me to be at the controls of the sporty little aerobatic trainer with the checkered tail markings. I sometimes shared the traffic pattern at my home airport with Cessna’s entry level jet of the time, a Citation I operated by the regional telephone company. I had no thought that I might one day move up to the high end of the Cessna product line.

Checking my logbook now, I find 15 other models of Cessna aircraft in which I have flown: as a pilot, instructor or designated examiner. I graduated from single- to multi-engine flying in a Cessna 340 doing Part 135 charter service, followed by turboprop time in King Airs, Commanders and Cheyennes. Then I moved into jets with the Citation ISP (Model 501) and most recently the Citation Mustang (Model 510). I couldn’t have imagined in 1980 that those numbers, 150 and 510, would provide the bookends to my flying career. Or that I would have the good fortune to wrap up my career flying a great aircraft like the Mustang.

In the mid 2000’s, after thousands of hours in piston-powered and turboprop aircraft, a friend and longtime client offered me the chance. He had decided to move up into a 501 (there are those numbers again). Insurance would dictate that he need a mentor to help with the transition from his Piper Malibu Mirage into the jet. Because of my other experience, I could qualify to fly with him with just 20 hours of training and a type rating check ride. When he asked if I was interested I said yes.

We flew together in the 501 for almost 200 hours over the span of a couple of years. Lots of trips between Montana where we both live and Los Angeles where his family has business interests and a second home. The plane was fun to fly and served his needs although it was dated having been designed in the late 1960s. He spent a lot of money to upgrade to RVSM capability, as well as avionics. It was a nice ship though it had its share of mechanical issues and the upgrades produced their own set of operational quirks. For example, the Garmin 530W had the capability to do LPV approaches, but the Sperry autopilot would not recognize and track the glide path from the GPS receiver.

At the same time, I began following the development of the 510. It was clearly aimed at the same entry-level market as the 501 but reflected all the technological improvements that the intervening 40 years had produced. When comparing the two aircraft it was apparent that Cessna had addressed a lot of the things that needed to be changed.

Ask any 501 pilot and they will say that the environmental system can be a problem. On a sunny day, the flight deck is toasty at cruising altitude, but the cabin is not warm enough. Turn up the heat for those in back and the pilots roast. In the summer the air conditioning works well enough on the ground if a freon system is installed to assist the air cycle machine. But it shuts down at lift off, just when the engines are putting out maximum bleed air under full power. Now everyone is too warm.

The Mustang solved that with the two environmental zones: Separate temperature controls, separate circulation fans, the left engine bleed air heats the flight deck, the right does the cabin. Freon air conditioning is standard equipment. The only thing missing is a temperature readout so the pilot can monitor cabin temperature. If the folks in back are not comfortable they shout. If they are really uncomfortable, they throw things.

The 501 went though numerous inverters, the unit that converts the DC electrical output of the generators into AC for the radar, autopilot and slaved gyros. New inverters were difficult to find and very expensive, so we always found rebuilt units with very uneven results. Many a time we sat at the end of the runway at Santa Monica waiting to get our IFR release only to have the selected inverter die just as we were cleared to go. Everything operates on DC in the Mustang: no inverters.

The 501 had dual hydraulic pumps and the associated plumbing to operate the landing gear, speed brakes and thrust reversers. Rather than the more common 5606 fluid, it used Skydrol, which is generally used on larger aircraft. We had few hydraulic issues but servicing was time consuming and could only be done by a shop that had a “mule” using the Skydrol. The 510 has electric flaps and speed brakes and no thrust reversers (more about that later). For landing gear operation, it uses a small electrically powered hydraulic power pack similar to the one used on Cessna single-engine models like the later model 210.

The new design is dramatically lighter: maximum takeoff weight for the ISP with Sierra mods was 12,499, for the Mustang it’s only 8,645. Part of that difference is a result of more efficient engines that require a much lighter fuel load. Lighter materials, no big hydraulic system and no air cycle machine are all factors that keep the weight down. Being lighter also lowers V speeds. Lower landing speed and better brakes eliminate the need for thrust reversers and all that extra weight they entail.

I mentioned the hodgepodge of avionics that were in the 501. The 510 features the wonderful Garmin G1000 system. It is totally integrated; the airplane was designed around it. Everything works together, and is well suited to the size and speed of the aircraft. Both planes are certified for single-pilot operation but the Mustang is much, much easier to fly and provides the pilot with a lot more help. The autopilot has worked flawlessly for me and flies the airplane much better than I can. For whatever reason, every other plane that I have flown put the autopilot controls between the seats on the center pedestal or at the bottom of the instrument panel. In the 510 it is in the middle of the glare shield, easy to see and reach. And eliminating that long pedestal makes getting into the front seats quite easy.

Cessna equipped the Mustang with electric windshields instead of the bleed air system that was used on all of its jets for years. That system worked well, but it was noisy and the duct work added weight. For the Mustang, they added an automatic cycle for the surface deice systems to reduce pilot workload.
The pressurization system is controlled by the G1000 and works automatically after the pilot enters the destination field elevation. The Engine Indicating Crew Alerting System (EICAS) is also part of the G1000 and replaces the troublesome tape gauges in the 501. Dual channel FADEC keeps track of the engines. There was an aft baggage area in the 501 accessible through the cabin that is replaced by a larger external space in the 510. It is not pressurized but stays moderately warm in flight. It also provides pilot access to the convenient manual battery disconnect, fire extinguisher bottle and electrical junction box.

I loved the Mustang on paper but didn’t expect to have an opportunity to fly one. But then another friend decided to upgrade from a Cessna 414 piston twin. I encouraged him to look hard at the 510 and ultimately, he bought one. Most of the time he flies it himself, but occasionally another pilot is needed. Guess what? I’m that pilot. So here I am, Cessna 150 to 510. I was thrilled to be at the controls of the 150, and I feel the same way on every flight in the 510.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the 501 and it taught me a lot. Having flown more than 50 different makes and models from many manufacturers, I can also say the Mustang is one of the best aircraft that I’ve ever encountered. Cessna deserves a lot of credit for getting it right.

by Ken Fielding

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