by Bryan Currier, Owner-Pilot
In 2001, I had a first officer offer letter in hand and engaged to the most beautiful girl in the world. We were set to get married in September, and I’d start my new job as an F.O. in November.
Of course, on September 11, the whole world changed – especially aviation. I found myself four days away from being married, with no clue what the aviation career track would be for me. I decided to abandon a professional flying career and focus on building my computer consulting company and integrating aviation into my business. The company grew, my travel requirements grew, and general aviation met the need wonderfully.
Our first “company plane” was a Grumman AA1 Yankee. I flew to appointments all over Michigan. Then we started to add people and clients in Chicago, Wisconsin and Indianapolis, so we upgraded to a Rockwell Commander 112. Over the next 15 years, we moved to a Rockwell 114, a Mooney 231, Cirrus SR20, Cirrus SR22, Saratoga, Bonanza, Malibu Mirage, and the Meridian. Each one was special, and each purchase was exciting. The first time I started the PT6 on that Meridian, I was in heaven. But with four growing kids and an ever-growing mission profile, we had reached the limits of the Meridian within 18 months.
Cost of Ownership
My first thought when it came time for another upgrade – TBM 850. It fit every profile with room to spare. Additional option – older King Air. A second engine may be nice, and you can fill them full of bricks and they fly (although I would really miss the G1000). Too poor for a Pilatus, I started losing sleep looking at “Controller” and pouring over a spreadsheet comparing aircraft.
A wise friend then told me, “For the money you’re spending on a TBM or a King Air, you can fly a light jet.” I seriously laughed at him. “Dude, did you miss the part about being too poor for the Pilatus? Now you’re talking about a jet? Get real.” He gently encouraged me to add two columns to my spreadsheet – one for a Citation Mustang and another for the Phenom 100.
I spent the next few weeks entering data from my logbook, recreating flights in ForeFlight and modeling them for each aircraft. He was right. The total cost of ownership on the four were very close. I took the family to look at a TBM and then a Mustang. The difference in cabin comfort is huge. Replaced headset jacks with cupholders? Yup, a green light from wifey. No need to look at the turboprops any further. If the jet will do the mission, nothing else will do.
A three-month process working with Mark Rogers and his team at Lone Mountain Aircraft led me to an off-market Mustang, 510-0328. And on November 11, 2017, I stood outside Cessna headquarters in Wichita and took delivery of N328CL. There are a few days in life you’ll always remember: getting married, the birth of kids, first house. This day is up there on the list.
From Nashville, my typical mission profile is 500 to 1,000 nm. Ninety percent of the time, it is just me, or me and one to two passengers. A special mission consideration is flying our family (two adults, four kids, dog and bags) to Florida or Michigan. An example of one of my most restrictive missions – three people from Nashville to Marine City, Michigan (3,100-foot strip), no fuel, turn around and come back. This is no small ask for a jet.
By the Numbers
Service Ceiling – FL 410, and you’ll go there easily on a standard day.
Range – at FL 410, the advertised 1,150 NBAA IFR profile with 100 nm alternate is doable (although I tell people it’s a 1,000 nm airplane IFR with STARs). The airplane is miserly with fuel at 410. If you’re doing less than 900 nm, you’re going to be in the upper 30s and zipping along at max cruise speed. Trade off a bit of fuel for payload and fill the seats.
Useful Load – 3,380 lbs. The 2,580-pound fuel tanks provide a full fuel payload of 800 lbs. My whole family with bags and the dog weighs 1,100 lbs. We can fill the seats, bring whatever we want and go pretty much anywhere we regularly go (Florida, Michigan) with no issues.
Speed – Cessna advertised a cruise speed of 340 kts, and it usually beats that a bit.
Landing Distance – 2,390 at gross weight. You’ll land in half that if you’re light. It’s amazing. The short-field performance is remarkable.
Baggage – Forward baggage is 20 cubic feet with a 320 pound-capacity, and the tail cone is 37 cubic feet with 300 pounds. Inside, the cabin has storage of 6 cubic feet and 98 pounds. I run out of room in the SUV before I run out of room in the airplane.
One of the things that I love about the Mustang is the simplicity and reliability of the modern design. The Garmin G1000 (now with NXi) makes the avionics transition a breeze. The rows of warning lights are replaced by a digital readout on the MFD. Digital checklist, XM weather, onboard radar, TCAS and TIS. Almost everything is electric, served by two independent generators that automatically load shed in the event of a failure. FADEC engines. Single hydraulic system. The fuel system is simple and requires no interaction. LED lights and HID landing lights. Simple and effective anti-icing systems – turn it on, and that’s it. The wheel comes out from the panel, so you do not have to straddle a column going into the floor like most jets.
Cessna was very intentional about making this an owner-flown friendly jet, and they nailed it. By keeping things simple, they also made it very reliable. In three years of ownership, I’ve never canceled a mission because of a maintenance issue.
March 3, 2020
Last March, I woke up around 6 a.m. to multiple missed calls, texts and e-mails. “Are you OK?” “Are you home?” “Is the family OK?” As I was about to try and figure out what all of this was about, my phone rang – my FBO manager.
“Bryan, are you on a trip?”
“Um, no. What’s up?”
“Is the plane here?”
“Um, yes, shouldn’t you know that?”
“I’m sorry, man. It’s gone.”
“What do you mean gone?”
The tornado that hit Nashville the night before was little more than a thunderstorm at our home. We slept through it. John C. Tune Airport (KJWN), however, was decimated. It was several days before I could even go to the airport. And it was 12 days before they found the wreckage of my plane (the last to be found) in the corner of one of the destroyed hangars. Sixteen days after the tornado hit, they were finally able to remove the wreckage from the hangar. Both wings were snapped, the tail was dangling, both wings were leaking fuel, the windshield was shattered, and the fuselage was so mangled that I couldn’t open the door.
It was a painful and emotional day.
So, Now What?
Early March 2020 was turbulent. The United States was heading into lockdown due to COVID-19, the stock market crashed, rates were cut, stimulus was discussed, the VIX spiked, and business froze. My clients (primarily small medical and dental practices) were all ordered closed. A stay at home lockdown? Will my business survive this? Will my clients stick with us? Can we continue to pay our staff? Oh, and what to do about the airplane.
My business (spread across eight states) depends on having access to an airplane, and the depreciation recapture tax implications were very real. The question wasn’t if, but which one? Once again, I looked through my logbook, looked at my missions, looked at the finances, and spent stupid amounts of time on “Controller.” Of course, we couldn’t leave the house, so that wasn’t so terrible.
After doing all of the research, and in a buyer’s market (remember, the world was burning), I found the perfect next airplane – another Mustang. It checked all the boxes.
A guy who owned a Citation XLS had purchased it as his second jet when he wanted to fly single pilot. He gave it to Cessna in 2019 and ordered avionics updates, all maintenance, new paint, and new interior – essentially made it a brand-new airplane. When the pandemic hit, he felt it best to stick with one jet and decided to sell the refurbished one without ever flying it. We came to an agreed price, a quick pre-buy, and my perfect upgrade was on its way home to Tennessee. A few weeks later, with some paint additions and a tail number change, my 2007 Citation Mustang became N915CF. You know you’ve made the right aircraft choice when you do it all over again. Now eight months in of flying the new Mustang, and it still amazes me.
Whatever your plane, we should all recognize how blessed we are to have aviation as part of our lives. This year, I’m more aware than ever, more grateful than ever, and more determined than ever to advocate for and protect our freedom to fly.