““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
Cessna M2: Rebirth of the CJ?
It may look like the CJ1, but there's a lot here that's new.
Cessna is looking to remake the DNA of its success and beat back encroaching light-jet competition. But can a nearly 25-year-old fuselage design do the trick? The new Citation M2 is a refreshed version of the company’s smallest Model 525, also known as the CJ1—and that airplane has been around for a while.
Cessna delivered the first Model 525 CitationJet (CJ) in 1993. It was a replacement for, and vast improvement over, the Citation I. That aircraft had brought Cessna into the civilian jet age and systematically gutted the business turboprop market in the 1970s and 1980s. Much of it was derived from the T-37A “Tweet” basic jet trainer Cessna had developed for the Air Force in the 1950s. But while the original Citation I sold well versus turboprops—nearly 700 were made between 1972 and 1985, when production ended—it came under fire for its thirsty fuel burn versus relatively slow (357 knots) top speed that bled off quickly at higher altitudes, lack of cabin headroom and aesthetic challenges, including stodgy styling and a bulbous nose. Airport wags were quick to label it the “Slowtation.”
Cessna designed the CJ to correct these deficiencies. It used part of the Citation I’s fuselage mated to a new nose and tail assembly, more aerodynamic wings, a pair of fuel-efficient Williams FJ44 engines, new first-generation glass-panel avionics and a redesigned cabin that provided better headroom from a trenched center aisle. Cessna shaved more than 1,400 pounds from the airplane, down to maximum takeoff weight of 10,400 pounds, and range increased from 1,329 to 1,500 nautical miles. More importantly, top cruise speed increased to a more respectable 380 knots. Slowtation no more. Yet the CJ retained the Citation I’s chief attribute: excellent short-field performance. Balanced field length required for takeoff was only 2,960 feet, enabling the use of airports just about anywhere. The aircraft sold incredibly well, with more than 700 CJs and updated CJ1 and CJ1+ versions delivered during an 18-year production run.
The CJ1 also provided a platform for Cessna to offer an entire family of aircraft based on the same diameter fuselage tube: the CJ2, CJ3 and now the CJ4. Collectively, more than 1,000 of those derivative models had been sold through the beginning of this year. They offer more range, speed and cabin space than the original CJ. When it comes to milking a fuselage, Cessna has few equals.
In 2003, Cessna unveiled an even smaller jet than the CJ, the Citation Mustang. That aircraft was aimed primarily at owner pilots flying turboprops and piston aircraft. Certification came three years later and, to date, more than 400 Mustangs have been delivered. It is one of Cessna’s most successful product launches of all time.
That said, the Mustang has some of the historical deficiencies of that original Citation I so many years ago: with a top speed of 340 knots, it is a Slowtation—a great jet for pilots new to the type, but eventually, likely to be unsatisfying. Competing aircraft from Embraer and Honda, while more expensive, were faster—a lot faster. The HondaJet tops out at 420 knots. Cessna did not want to cede that niche to the competition and it also wanted a step-up product for Mustang owners.
In 2011, therefore, the company announced plans for the M2. At first blush, the aircraft looked like a refreshed CJ1+, only with subtle winglets. But under the skin, much is new.
For one thing, there are the uprated Williams FJ44-1AP-21 engines with full authority digital engine control (FADEC). They produce 1,965 pounds of thrust each (sea level, standard temperature) and have a 4,000-hour time-between-overhaul interval. (That equals about 10 to 14 years of average use.) The engines have more blow and that means the M2 can maintain maximum cruise speed through higher altitudes—all the way up to 39,000 feet. Maximum altitude is 41,000. On ascent they burn a reasonable 133 gallons per hour; that declines during level cruise to 112 gallons per hour while pushing the airplane to 400 knots or 460 mph. Dial it back a little and you can do better.
Fuel capacity is 494 gallons. Range is 1,300 nautical miles and payload with full fuel and one pilot is 500 pounds. The useful load—fuel, people and bags—is 3,809 pounds. Like all CJs and the Mustang, the M2 will be certified for single-pilot operations and that pilot is getting a nicer working space.
By comparison with the earlier models, the new cockpit is roomier and has a shorter control pedestal for easier entry to and egress from the pilot seats. It also features the new Garmin G3000 touchscreen avionics system, which Cessna vice president Brad Thress says will significantly improve the airplane’s reliability compared with that of its CJ1 progenitor, with far longer mean times between unscheduled component removals. The avionics are designed to accommodate the newest and future air traffic control and navigation technology.
A variety of passenger cabin layouts and standard color/fabric schemes are available, with seating for four to five passengers (four to seven, if you count the copilot’s seat and belted potty, which I don’t). The standard configuration is a facing-club-four arrangement with an optional single passenger, side-facing seat opposite the cabin entry door. The aft lav features a flushing toilet with optional closing door—a nice touch on an airplane this size, as is the new Clairity cabin-management system for passenger communications and entertainment. The seats have been redesigned to be slightly more ergonomic and have inboard armrests that retract into the seat backs when not in use, creating a nice, clean appearance. The cabin employs LED lighting throughout and includes a pair of 110V AC plugs.
Despite these amenities, this is still a small airplane. The cabin is 57 inches tall (if you measure in the trenched center aisle) and 58 inches wide; length is 11 feet. The baggage hold can swallow 725 pounds in a respectable but not overly generous 46 cubic feet.
The M2 maintains the CJ heritage of good short-runway performance; required runway for takeoff is less than 3,300 feet. With new engines and avionics, the airplane should offer respectable competition in its class. n
Cessna M2 at a Glance
Price $4.395 million
Cruising speed 400 kt
Range* 1,300 nm
Takeoff distance** 3,250 ft
Landing distance 2,640 ft
Cabin Height: 4 ft, 9 in
Width: 4 ft, 10 in
Length: 11 ft
Baggage: 46 cu ft
*with single pilot and 500-lb payload; NBAA IFR fuel reserves with 100-nm alternate
**with single pilot and 500-lb payload
Mark Huber (email@example.com) is a private pilot with experience in more than 50 aircraft models.