This article first appeared in the June 2018 edition of Australian Aviation.
The Citation M2 is Cessna’s “entry level” business jet for those looking for the ultimate in personal air travel. As such, it is tasked with both providing luxury and a manageable transition into jet operations for the aspiring owner-operator.
On all counts, it would appear that Cessna has met the challenge.
Meeting the market
Cessna has been in the business of business jets for nearly 50 years and in that time, it has come a significant way. In fact, in 2017, parent company Textron Aviation announced that Cessna’s CJ series had delivered its 2,000th aircraft and clocked up more than five million flight hours.
From the fledgling Citation I, it has grown into a fleet that spans small personal jets, right through to the impressive Citation X, which can speed through the upper atmosphere at more than Mach 0.9. Even so, across the range, there is an over-riding philosophy of simplicity to a degree that it could almost be seen as a corporate mantra.
This is particularly important in the case of the M2 as the majority of owners are also the operators and pilots of the aircraft – unlike many other larger business jets that may employ corporate air crew. By contrast, the Citation M2 can be flown single-pilot under instrument conditions by a suitably trained mentored and qualified private pilot.
Accordingly, there is a need for both the transition to the M2 and the ongoing operation to be relatively straightforward and a manageable step.
Cessna has met that aim through various design features and its choice of systems, while building upon its strong tradition of jets in this class. On paper, the Citation M2 looks to deliver a great deal to the new entrant in the bizjet market, but the proof is in the flying.
Holding Its own
The ramp outside Hawker Pacific’s Sydney Airport FBO is an impressive sight with an abundance of impressive hardware parked and at the ready for dispatch to a range of far-flung destinations. Towering tailplanes, foreign markings and extravagant paint schemes are everywhere to be seen. Among their number is the more diminutive sight of the Cessna Citation M2, and yet its form is equally sleek and its allure, just as great.
As I walk towards the M2 with Textron Aviation demonstration pilot Adam Cathcart, its Citation heritage is apparent. The aircraft bears the characteristic straight wing that harks back to the earliest models, but also a swept T-tail in the style of the Citation X. What is new are the winglets that make the aircraft immediately discernible from its predecessor the CJ1+.
A fold-down airstair is located aft of the cockpit and ahead of the left wing. Simple, stylish but deceptively sturdy, the stairs make an ideal starting point for Adam and I to inspect the exterior of the M2.
Further forward, the nose compartment is accessible from both sides, through two top-hinged locker doors. On the aft wall, the panel has a series of windows for the easy inspection of gauges relaying the status of various systems such as oxygen, landing gear and brakes. Externally, the nose section is host to an array of aerials and sensors, including one for the angle-of-attack, while there is a conventional nose wheel.
The wing can tell much of an aircraft’s story, and the M2 is no exception. Spanning 14.4m, its leading edge highly polished and heated for anti-icing, the traditional straight wing design is reflected in the aircraft’s impressive takeoff and landing performance. At maximum weights, the M2 can takeoff in under 1,000m and land in less than 800m.
Still, its maximum ceiling is 41,000ft and a has true airspeed of more than 400kt (Mach 0.71). That’s a versatile performance envelope.
Each wing houses a single fuel tank for a total capacity of 1,495kg, while the winglets add a very modern touch. Just inboard of mid-span, on the upper and lower surface, are speedbrake panels. The top panel is solid, while the lower panel is perforated and the speedbrake can be deployed in flight, or on the ground in association with selecting “ground flap”.
The conventional trailing edge Fowler flaps can be selected to 15 degrees for takeoff and 35 degrees for landing. Ground flap extends the flaps to 60 degrees and in association with speedbrake deployment on landing, contribute to the M2’s impressive landing performance. While the primary flight controls are mechanical, the flaps and speed brakes are hydraulically actuated.
The main landing gear has a trailing arm linkage, which makes for flattering touchdowns for pilots and comfort for the passengers in the cabin. Hydraulically-operated in normal operations, the gear can be allowed to free-fall or be blown down in an emergency. Brake wear indicators are just as you find on airliners, and the cue to replace the brakes is when the protruding indicators sit flush with the rest of the brake assembly.
The T-tail stands 4.24m tall and the aft section of the M2 is home to a pair of Williams International FJ44-1AP-21 engines that each produce 1,965lb of thrust. The engines incorporate dual channel FADEC (full authority digital electronic controls) to provide both automation and efficiency in engine management. Mounted behind the passenger cabin and with a bypass ratio of more than 3.5:1, these engines suggest that they will make for a rather quiet experience in the cabin.
On the left-hand side of the aft fuselage is another cargo compartment, which can also be fitted with an internal tube into the tailcone to accommodate skis, if needed. Like the nose locker, access is at a comfortable chest-height meaning that loading and unloading doesn’t require any heaving and organising baggage can be done with relative ease.
Taking stock before we board the M2, I am already impressed by the simplicity of the external inspection and the various systems. Now it’s time to take a look inside.
Stepping inside any bizjet usually brings with it a degree of “wow-factor” as their interiors are inherently luxurious. Despite such an expectation, there is no escaping how impressive the cabin of the Citation M2 truly is. One could be forgiven for expecting certain aspects of the cabin to be scaled down in an aircraft designed to carry a maximum of seven people, but that is definitely not the case.
Generous windows, a slightly sunken aisle and an aft section that conceals a toilet all combine to give a sense of space. Additionally, the four high-backed leather seats are as comfortable as you will find anywhere and arranged in a club arrangement, while a sizeable table unfolds from each sidewall. Even the cup holders are well-thought out and of a depth that is suited to air travel.
The cabin would be a comfortable means of personal travel, or a corporate workspace with universal outlets and optional internet connectivity. The M2 can also come with an onboard media server that can connect to any onboard device to access moving maps or streaming audio or video.
A fifth cabin seat is sideward facing and located on the right-hand side. An alternative configuration dispenses with this seat and replaces it with a cabinet to complement the standard-fitted set of drawers located opposite, forward of the airstair.
The question of payload versus range always arises with any aircraft type and in some cases the design hinges around an ideal scenario, however the M2 doesn’t quite conform to this philosophy. Its most likely situation would see a pilot and four passengers on board and this configuration offers a range of nearly 1,200nm.
On some types, when more than the most likely passenger load is carried, the range/payload can erode dramatically – but not with the Citation M2. Filling all seats and carrying seven on board, the range is still only just shy of 1,000nm. The M2 tends to have a sweet band, rather than a sweet spot.
In Australian terms that means that from Sydney, the M2 can reach Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart with a maximum payload. With four passengers, that reach extends to Christchurch, New Zealand in the east and Townsville to the north.
Quite impressive for an entry-level jet.
The business end
While the cabin is very enticing, the cockpit of the M2 is equally alluring to the pilot. The first, most striking impression is the absolutely clean lines and minimalist look to the workspace. There appears to be no clutter, or hard-to-get-at switches. There are two very comfortable pilot seats, two very stylish yokes, a centre pedestal with two sporty thrust levers and a clean, dark instrument panel.
The array is brought to life by Adam when he selects the auxiliary battery system via the dispatch switch and it becomes apparent how the streamlined cockpit styling has been achieved. The M2 is equipped with the Garmin G3000 system which hosts three large LCD screens and two small central Garmin Touch Screen Controllers (GTC), through which system inputs are made. The need for other system switches and selectors are minimal.
The choice of the Garmin G3000 is a very conscious and clever decision. Recognising that most potential owners will be familiar with the prolific Garmin G1000 suite, it is yet another area where the transition has been smoothed out for the new M2 operator.
Seated in the cockpit the arm rest sits at an ideal height and the rather short thrust levers are equally well positioned. One cannot escape the parallel feel of a sports car. There is a sight gauge to reflect the ideal seat position and having adjusted the seat it was sitting dead-centre. What feels right is just as the manufacturer recommends.
The auxiliary battery system is an advantage the M2 has over its predecessor. Without draining the main battery system prior to engine start, the M2 can be powered up, flight plans programmed, and clearances obtained prior to boarding the passengers. So successful is the system that Adam reflects that he has never needed to use a ground power unit (GPU) in his time operating the Citation M2.
With these preflight tasks completed, we board the passengers bound for Essendon and close the door. The ATIS is accessed, the remaining programming of performance figures are calculated and completed, and the few remaining checks are carried out prior to starting the engines.
The whole process is very intuitive through the GTCs and the various ‘paper’ checklists have very few items to confirm. Already it is easy to see how this aircraft has been certified for single-pilot operations and now it is time to see how that translates in flight.
Starting the engines could not be simpler. A push-button starter switch is depressed, initiating the sequence under the watchful eye of the FADEC. On achieving the required N2, the thrust lever is moved forward to the idle setting to introduce fuel and the engine lights off. The starter cuts out automatically and the whole sequence is displayed clearly on the Garmin engine instrumentation. The pilot must still guard against hot and hung starts, but otherwise the process is fundamentally automatic.
With both engines running in a matter of minutes, we are cleared to taxi at Sydney Airport, the parking brake is released, and the flight is underway. Ground steering is achieved by the rudder pedals, which are equipped with traditional toe brakes. The absence of a tiller is again an example of keeping the format in line with aircraft that the pilot has most likely flown previously.
The M2 is simple to taxi and it is already apparent that the brakes and thrust levers on this aircraft are very responsive to inputs and only the lightest of touches is required. Equipped with anti-skid, the system comes into play a little above 10kt ground speed. The pre-takeoff sequences are minimal and easily managed without overloading a lone pilot. Our takeoff speeds today with five on board are – V1 100kt, rotate at 105kt and V2 of 111kt.
For takeoff, the thrust levers will need to pass through a series of detentes as they are moved forward from idle – through cruise and climb to takeoff – three clicks. A 737 lands on Runway 34 Right and we are cleared to line up and Adam reminds me that we are liable to achieve 500ft for the initial turn before the runway’s end.
Cleared for takeoff. Click – click – click. Three clicks and takeoff power is clearly displayed and confirmed on the Garmin instrumentation.
Responsive is an understatement. The two Williams engines spool up quickly and takeoff thrust is set with the associated sinking into the seat under acceleration. We are through V1 and rotating the aircraft to around 10 degrees body angle, and with a positive rate of climb the gear is selected up.
Five hundred feet is upon us and we start the right turn before levelling the wings, accelerating and retracting the flaps. This is a sports car! It’s beautiful to fly as I move the thrust levers back to the climb detente to reign in the acceleration. Approaching 5,000ft and an altitude restriction, the thrust is retarded further, and the rate of climb is reduced to smoothly transition into level flight at 250kt.
The departure happens very quickly and is probably the most challenging aspect of the M2 that a new pilot will need to manage. That being said, the aircraft was without vice throughout the manoeuvre, so adequate training would make the sequence straightforward. And there’s always the autopilot, which would be the prudent means of management in a single-pilot operation. However, with two of us in the cockpit, I was having too much fun to relinquish the handling to the autopilot just yet.
Given further climb and vectors, we had soon left the coastline behind and below. The book quotes the Citation M2 reaching a cruise level of FL410 in 24 minutes at maximum weight and I can readily see how this is achieved. Eventually, and somewhat reluctantly, I engaged the autopilot to gain a feel for managing the aircraft using the automation.
With airliners reporting turbulence in the upper levels, we set to cruise at FL300, which is a little lower than standard for a sector length of between Sydney and Melbourne. With 102 per cent N1, we were indicating a true airspeed of 413kt and burning just over 1,000lb/hr as Canberra slipped past the right wingtip. Consulting the flight manual, we were almost right on the book figures and even a little faster than the predicted TAS.
Like airliners, the M2 also has a passive computer diagnostics maintenance monitoring system that is constantly recording more than 3,500 parameters into a central maintenance computer, or CMC. The CMC has the ability to record faults and downlink them ahead of an aircraft’s arrival, which ultimately has a positive impact on dispatch reliability.
I was treated to a cup of tea and checked with the passengers on their comfort level in the cabin. It was a question that was greeted with smiles all-round. With my headsets removed, the noise levels in the cabin were minimal and normal conversation was not impacted at all.
While Garmin is not my everyday avionics suite, under Adam’s tuition I found the G3000 extremely intuitive and with a world full of options. Even so, programming our descent and arrival into Essendon followed a similar logic path to every other type of system that I have operated, although the terminology may vary. Once entered, everything can be verified by scrolling through the loaded flightplan and confirming the route on the map display.
Before the flight, I had calculated that descent should be commenced at roughly double the altitude in miles and minus about eight – give or take. So, for 30,000ft, that should be 60 minus eight, or 52 miles. Adam made it even simpler. Double the altitude and allow the flexibility of the M2’s descent profile to fine tune the numbers. Another case of simplicity for the single pilot.
All too soon we have to descend, and we do so initially in vertical speed mode until we fly onto the vertical path generated by the G3000. Direct tracking and crossing requirements issued by air traffic control are easily programmed and the descent profile adjusted.
Bleeding back to 250kt by 10,000ft, I extend the speedbrake to assess its performance. There is no ability to ease it out gradually, simply a selection of fully extended or retracted and as such, it is not particularly subtle, but it is effective.
Stepping down through cleared altitudes in controlled airspace, Essendon appears in the distance as the ILS/localiser is ghosted in white on the instrument display and the synthetic vision displays the surrounding terrain as a backdrop. All of these displays enhance my situational awareness and again I can translate this into benefits for the single pilot.
Levelling at 3,000ft the speed easily decelerates through 200kt, at which time the first stage of flap is selected by pushing the flap lever down and moving it aft to the 15-degree gate. The localiser now turns green as I fly onto it and disengaging the autopilot I intercept the glide slope a short time later.
The aircraft has drift on due to the cold Melbourne winds blowing at right angles to the localiser, but the M2 is responsive in all axes and, when trimmed, only small inputs are required to keep it centred on the ILS. Slowing through 180kt the landing gear is extended and below 161kt the landing flap of 35 degrees is taken.
Vref for the landing is 105kt with an approach speed of 111kt, although Adam suggests an initial target of 120kt, bleeding the excess off in the latter stages of the approach. The Williams engines also only require small inputs and it is easy to manage the speed within a knot or two.
As the runway looms closer, the crosswind is down to only 10kt and most of the breeze has swung to a headwind. The speed is washed off gradually and with a few extra knots of energy still remaining, the thrust levers are closed just prior to entering the flare.
The trailing arm undercarriage ensures a smooth touchdown and the nose is lowered onto the runway. Without delay I move my hand to the flap lever and this time I raise it, moving it aft to the 60-degree, ground flap setting which also deploys the speedbrake. The M2 is not fitted with reverse thrust, but the effectiveness of this increased drag is very impressive in concert with the wheel brakes.
As the turnoff for our parking bay is at the far end of the runway and satisfied by the aircraft’s stopping power, I release the pressure on the toe brakes and allow the M2 to roll through before taxiing clear of the runway.
After landing checks are completed and a small radius of turn into our parking position is easily achieved, the engines are shut down by moving the thrust levers aft of the idle position and moments later our flight has come to an end.
VIDEO: The 2012 Cessna Citation M2 promotional video from Textron Aviation’s YouTube channel.
Putting it simply
One normally associates business jets with the latest on offer in civil aviation technology and a level of personalised cabin comfort that cannot readily be found on an airliner. This is undoubtedly true for the Cessna Citation M2, but it brings even more to the table. It brings a solution.
The step up to a private jet will always necessitate tailored training and close scrutiny for the owner/operator.
However, through an astute choice of systems, Cessna has made that potential transition a relatively smooth one. Consequently, through this simplification, the new pilot can focus on learning to fly an aircraft that will most likely have significantly more performance than their previous aircraft type.
Beyond the technology and the training, there is no escaping the fact that for an entry level jet, the Cessna Citation M2 offers a luxurious ride in the cabin and is an absolute pleasure to fly.