Citation Sovereign

Citation Sovereign Still Reigns Supreme

Cessna shut down production of the model in 2021. Maybe it shouldn’t have.

There has never been a business jet quite like Textron Aviation’s Cessna Citation Sovereign and its Sovereign+ successor. Cessna began serial production of the sort-of-super-midsize jet in 2004 and upgraded it with the Sovereign+ in 2013. Production ended in 2021 after the airframer had delivered 349 Sovereign and 94 Sovereign+ aircraft. No other business jet, before or since, has offered the Sovereign’s combination of cabin size, range, and short-field capability. 

With two crew up front and four passengers in back, the eight- to 12-passenger Sovereign has a range of 2,847 nautical miles, a payload capacity of 2,650 pounds, and a long-range cruise speed of 388 knots (normal cruise is 445 knots). It has a relatively quick climb rate of 4,000 to 5,000 feet per minute at lower altitudes without being a fuel pig and can easily use runways with a maximum length of 4,000 feet. 

Moreover, it does all this without powered, power-boosted, computer-driven, or fiber-optic fly-by-wire flight controls—just good old-fashioned mechanical controls and cables and a smattering of hydraulics. Switch off the autopilot and hand-fly it and your arms get a workout. Aside from the glass-panel Honeywell Primus Epic avionics, digital engine controls, LED cabin lights, and optional Airshow in-flight entertainment system, there are few hints that this airplane was designed any time after 1989. The styling is decidedly stodgy: from the cruciform tail to the trenched center aisle in the passenger cabin, the Sovereign harkens back to the first transcontinental business jets of the 1960s. All this simplicity translates into impressive durability and reliability—some Sovereign operators fly their airplanes more than 1,000 hours per year. 

Citation Sovereign cockpit

If the aircraft has any weak point, it’s the cabin. When it was new, Cessna categorized it as a super-medium jet. Well, not quite. The Sovereign has nowhere near the cabin volume, wide floors, or headroom of a true super-midsize aircraft such as a Gulfstream G280. It shares the same 66-inch tube width at the shoulders as the smaller, midsize Citation XLS. Swivel your seat even a little and you’re in the aisle and knocking knees with the passenger across from you. The trenched drop-floor center aisle provides 68 inches of headroom. 

The passenger cabin is just over 25 feet long. Its eight individual slide, swivel, and reclining seats are arranged in two facing club-four configurations. There is space for an additional single, side-facing seat opposite the aircraft entry door. (Some Sovereigns are equipped with two- and three-place divans, which allows for as many as 12 passengers.)  

Citation Sovereign interior

The standard right-hand refreshment center is forward of the main entry door. It is 31 inches wide and includes two hot-beverage tanks, an ice drawer, a trash receptacle, and storage space. Skip the side-facing forward seat and you’ll have room for an extended refreshment center. The eight-cubic-foot coat closet opposite the refreshment center can hold 140 pounds. A 27-cubic-foot hanging closet inside the lavatory in the aft cabin can accommodate another 415 pounds. The main 100-cubic-foot baggage compartment is in the tail cone and can hold 1,000 pounds; it is heated but not accessible from the cabin.

Sovereign+ Adds Features

While the cabin dimensions do not change from the Sovereign to the Sovereign+, plenty else does. Viewed from the outside, the two aircraft are immediately distinguishable by the winglets on the Sovereign+, which Cessna calls “swooplets.” They extend the wingspan by nine feet and some of that extra space allows the aircraft to carry more fuel. That, combined with the higher-thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306D engines, boosts range by 153 nautical miles to 3,000, cuts time to climb, enables a direct climb to 45,000 feet, and increases maximum cruise speed to 460 knots.

The restyled cabin features more curved cabinetry, LED lighting, more robust side tables, drink ledges with revised cupholders, and room for personal storage. The redesigned single executive seats use a common platform that Cessna’s new-generation Latitude and Longitude jets also employ. They feature eight degrees more pitch, allowing passengers to lean back farther—and more comfortably. The armrests retract into the seatbacks, widening the aisle and providing more thigh room for larger passengers. Six 110V outlets are interspersed throughout the cockpit, cabin, and lav with jacks at each club-four seat grouping. USB charging ports are standard at each seat.

Passengers will notice other differences between the legacy Sovereign and the Sovereign+, including an air conditioning system on the latter that provides 37 percent better cooling. The Sovereign+ also adds the Clairity cabin management system, which integrates the cabin electrical system, avionics, and communications via a fiber-optic backbone with touchscreen controllers at every seat that operate cabin lights, window shades, temperature, digital audio and video, and an interactive moving map. The controllers have built-in web browsers (internet service required) and some add-on options, including RGB mood lighting, Wi-Fi, high-speed internet, and satellite radio.

The restyled cockpit on the Sovereign+ is built around the new Garmin G5000 touchscreen avionics suite, which features three 14-inch flat-panel displays, an integrated autopilot, and autothrottles. The G5000 offers communications, safety, and navigation technology, including synthetic vision, weather radar, GPS with a wide-area-augmentation system for precision approaches, a traffic-collision-avoidance system (TCAS II), a terrain-awareness-and-warning system (TAWS), ADS-B out, a radio altimeter, and a cockpit voice recorder. Automatic functions built into the G5000 speed engine start and preflight checks. 

According to the aircraft valuation service Vref, used Sovereigns retail for $6.6 million to $10.8 million, while the used Sovereign+ retails for $11.6 million to 17.5 million. 

The Competition Falls Short

Compared with a Hawker 850XP produced between 2006 and 2009, the Sovereign uses considerably less runway, has a direct operating cost that is nearly 20 percent less, holds substantially more luggage, offers 230 nautical miles more range, and has longer maintenance intervals. However, the price of used 850XPs tops out at around $4 million and its tweaked successor, the 900XP, at $5 million. 

But perhaps a more apt comparison is with the two aircraft Cessna fielded to follow the Sovereign line, the $20 million Citation Latitude and the $30 million Citation Longitude. While those aircraft feature wider and taller flat-floor cabins with a cross-section that is 77 inches wide and 72 inches tall, neither offers the Sovereign’s flexibility. The Latitude does share the Sovereign’s good short-field capability, but it can’t match its range or passenger capacity. (Its cabin is four feet shorter.) The Longitude is faster and offers 500 nautical miles more range than the Sovereign+, but it requires 5,000-foot runways at maximum takeoff weight. And its cabin length and passenger capacity are the same as the Sovereign’s. 

When you add it all up and take a deep dive into a variety of mission capabilities, you will likely find that the Cessna Citation Sovereign and Sovereign+ still reign supreme. 

Citation Sovereign

Mark Huber has flown more than 50 aircraft models and has been reviewing new and used airplanes and helicopters for BJT since 2005.

2016 Textron Aviation Cessna Citation Sovereign+ at a Glance

Price: $18 million new, $13.7 million (average) used

Engines: 2 Pratt & Whitney Canada PW306D, 5907 pounds of thrust, each

Avionics: Garmin G5000 

Crew: 2 

Passengers: 8–12 

Range: 3,000 nm (4 passengers, NBAA IFR reserves) 

Maximum cruise speed: 460 knots

Takeoff distance at maximum takeoff weight: 3,530 feet 

Cabin: 5.7 ft (H), 5.5 ft (W), 25.25 ft (L), 571 cu ft (V)

External baggage capacity: 100 cu ft 

Internal baggage capacity: 35 cu ft