New Aircraft

Little Big Jet

October 1, 2005

The Citation XLS: Excelling the Excel

Cessna has yet another member in its Citation family of business jets. The Citation XLS (model designator CE-560XL), like its stablemate, the CJ3, was brought to market in 2003, and now some 52 XLSs are flying. So where does this new model fit in the ever-expanding Citation line?

The XLS is the top of the "straight wing" Citations and replaces the Citation Excel. The swept-wing Citation Sovereign and Citation X are the next step up the Citation food chain. The XLS' big draw is its cabin and its enhanced performance relative to the Excel.

First, the cabin. After all, in this two-pilot airplane that's where the buyer most often lives. Cessna gets a lot of mileage out of its claim that the Excel and XLS have stand-up cabins, and in fact, many owners of smaller-cabin Citations trade up to the XLS' roomier digs for that reason. The standard interior gives you nine cabin seats — six in club-style seating, two in a side-facing divan, and one belted, side-facing seat in the aft lavatory — but an 11-seat, high-density seating option is also available. There's a dropped aisle that runs the length of the cabin, and newly designed, fully articulating seats with folding armrests that permit seats that are 2 to 4 inches wider than those in the Excel. (The slablike Excel armrests slide up and down in tracks, limiting seat width.) New light-emitting-diode (LED) ceiling lights are also standard; these are cooler running, more durable, and longer lived than the Excel's. Interior closets, tables with leather inserts, a refreshment center, a large-jet-style airstair door, and a big aft baggage compartment round out the basic airplane. Airshow (a video system that can be programmed to show the airplane's position, route, airspeed, altitude, as well as video entertainment) and other cabin entertainment systems are optional.

If the cabin has a large-business-jet feel, the rest of the airplane adheres closely to its roots in the Citation V of the late 1980s. The wing planform and profile, for example, are nearly identical, as are many of the airplane's systems. But some big upgrades have been incorporated into the XLS. These include more powerful, 3,991-pounds-static-thrust Pratt & Whitney PW545B turbofan engines (the Excel's PW545As are rated at 3,804 lbst). The new engines get their extra power from redesigned fan blades and a software change in the electronic engine controls. An auxiliary power unit is standard in the XLS (it was an option in the Excel), wheel-well fairings were added to reduce drag and boost speed, and a new brake system now routes hydraulic lines outside the cabin's pressure vessel to round out some of the more major airframe improvements. Up front, XLS pilots fly using the new Honeywell Primus 1000 Control Display System — an avionics suite that features drop-down menus for selecting (via a center-console joystick) display setups for both the primary flight displays (PFDs) and multifunction display (MFD). The 8-by-10-inch liquid-crystal-display screens are the same as those used in the Sovereign's Honeywell Epic avionics suite. TCAS II, TAWS-B, a three-frequency emergency locator transmitter (options on the Excel), and a Universal UNS-1ESP flight management system are standard with the XLS. So is reduced vertical separation minimum (RVSM) compliance.

The day I flew the XLS there was wind galore at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport (Cessna's home base), along with a cloud mass that ranged from 3,000 to 30,000 feet. Gusty winds always make you sit up and take notice, but especially so when it's your first time at the wheel — and you've got a small contingent of rapt witnesses. Anyway, the bottom line is that the XLS is pilot-friendly and anyone familiar with Citations — and who attends the three-week pilot initial training at FlightSafety International (included in the price of the airplane) — will find the XLS a tame bird indeed.

The start sequence is a no-brainer, for example. Just push a start button and the engine begins to turn, fuel is introduced at the proper time, lightoff occurs, and then the generators are brought on line — all automatically. Your job is to watch out for anomalies, and be ready to shut an engine down if high interturbine temperatures threaten a damaging hot start. With both engines running, and the avionics brought up and programmed, it's time to taxi. Add a little power to break away from the parking place, then back off and steer with the rudder pedals as the airplane rolls toward the taxiway.

Takeoffs can be made with either a 7- or 15-degree flap setting. Fifteen degrees yields the shortest takeoff distances and lowest liftoff speeds, so that's what I and Cessna demo pilot Ross Schoneboom used. At our takeoff weight of 18,000 pounds our takeoff decision speed (V1) was 90 knots, and our rotation speed (VR) was 101 knots. Prior to takeoff, it's important to understand a couple of XLS details.

The XLS uses electronic engine controls (EECs) to control engine speeds, and these have mechanical backups. Some call this setup "FADEC light" because while the EECs store some data and the thrust levers move to click-stop detents as power is advanced or retarded, the system is not a fully digital, power-by-wire arrangement. So for takeoff, just advance the thrust levers until they click into the TO (takeoff) detent and the EECs set the fan speed to produce the correct amount of power.

The other item has to do with the flaps. The horizontal stabilizer has two positions — one at a minus 1-degree angle-of-incidence setting and the other at plus 2 degrees. The flap handle controls the settings. On the ground and ready for takeoff, the stabilizer is at the minus 1-degree setting for better control authority at rotation. But retract the flaps after takeoff, and you'd better be ready to retrim as the stabilizer moves toward that plus 2-degree value.

So for takeoff, it's click-click-click for max power, ailerons into the wind for crosswind correction, steer with the rudder, and then tug on the yoke at VR. It doesn't take long to get there, and soon you're airborne in a 4,000-fpm climb with the airspeed surging toward the 200-knot mark. Retard the power to avoid busting the 250-knots-below-10,000-feet rule, retract the flaps, retrim, and fly the departure procedure that's easily visible on the flight-plan view of the MFD. Purple trend lines on the PFD's airspeed and altitude vertical tapes show you where the airplane will be in the next six seconds, giving you plenty of time to make pitch and power adjustments to meet your targets. Or you can simply engage the flight control system/autopilot and the airplane will fly to the preselected values you input via the push buttons above the PFD and the pedestal controls.

Passing through 36,000 feet on our way to 39,000 feet the XLS was still turning in a 3,000-fpm climb rate at a 223-KIAS climb speed. For maximum climb rates, leave the thrust levers in the CLB (climb) detent; the EECs will automatically adjust fan speeds for climb power as altitude changes. For ice protection, we turned on the XLS' bleed air panels on the wing leading edges, and the pneumatic boots used on the horizontal stabilizer — plus the windshield and pitot heat.

Once we settled down at 39,000 feet, our cruise speed worked out to 435 KTAS with conditions 3 degrees Celsius above standard for that altitude. That's about 20 knots faster than the Excel. To keep from hitting the airspeed "barber pole" and triggering an overspeed warning, power had to be pulled back, out of the CRU (cruise) detent.

The XLS has a safety feature called the "emergency descent mode" and we simulated its actions for a demonstration. It's designed to help pilots perform a maximum-rate descent in case of a loss of cabin pressurization. When the airplane senses a loss of cabin pressure, the autopilot will automatically turn the airplane 90 degrees, descend it at VMO (or MMO), then level off at 15,000 feet. Pilot actions are limited to putting on the oxygen mask (the first step in the procedure), reducing power to idle, and deploying the speed brakes.

Back in the pattern, the XLS behaves much like its lighter Citation brethren. The reference speed for our approaches worked out to be 107 knots — and can be as low as 99 knots at light weights — and I could use the airspeed trend line and angle-of-attack information to add or reduce power to keep the glidepath and airspeed under control in the gusty conditions. By the way, in spite of the power detents, the thrust levers can be adjusted manually to any setting.

At 30 or so feet above the runway, I pulled the levers back to idle and held the nose level as the airplane settled. The arrival was firm but respectable, especially in view of the rocky ride down final. The trailing-link landing gear no doubt played a big part in cushioning the landing. And there were no bounces, no swerves, and no lurching as the reverse-thrust paddles were pulled.

Cessna appears to have done it again: provided a docile, incremental step-up airplane for its devotees.

It gives Excel fans that extra edge — 20 to 30 more knots and 200 nautical miles more range — they always wanted, and makes standard the most popular options. For small- to medium-size companies wanting that elusive combination of a big cabin coupled with short-field capability, the XLS makes a lot of sense.

E-mail the author at [email protected].

Links to additional information about Cessna Citation business jets may be found on AOPA Online (


Cessna Citation XLS
Base price: $9.90 million
Powerplants Pratt & Whitney PW545B turbofans, 3,991 lbst ea
Recommended TBO 5,000 hr
Recommended hot-section inspection 2,500 hr
Length 51 ft 10 in
Height 17 ft 2 in
Wingspan 55 ft 8 in
Wing area 369.7 sq ft
Wing loading 54.6 lb/sq ft
Power loading 2.53 lb/lbst
Seats 8 to 11
Cabin length (fwd to aft pressure bulkheads) 18 ft 6 in
Cabin width 5 ft 6 in
Cabin height 5 ft 8 in
Basic operating weight 12,800 lb
Max ramp weight 20,400 lb
Max takeoff weight 20,200 lb
Max zero-fuel weight 15,100 lb
Max useful load 7,600 lb
Payload w/full fuel 860 lb
Max landing weight 18,700 lb
Fuel capacity 1,006 gal/6,740 lb
Baggage capacity, aft 80 cu ft
Takeoff distance, MTOW, SL @15 deg C/59 deg F 3,560 ft
Rate of climb, sea level 3,500 fpm
Single-engine ROC, sea level 800 fpm
Cruise speed/range w/45-min fuel rsv (fuel consumption), 35,000 ft
@ High-speed cruise, 16,500 lb
433 kt/2,110 nm (1,470 pph/219 gph)
Max operating altitude 45,000 ft
Single-engine service ceiling 28,600 ft
Sea-level cabin to 25,230 ft
Landing distance at max landing weight 3,180 ft
Limiting and Recommended Airspeeds
V R (rotation), 15-deg flaps 107 KIAS
V 1 (takeoff decision speed), 15-deg flaps 99 KIAS
V MCG (min control w/one engine inoperative, ground) 81 KIAS
V MCA (min control w/one engine inoperative, air) 90 KIAS
V 2 (takeoff safety speed), 15-deg flaps 118 KIAS
V FE (max flap extended) 175 KIAS
V LE (max gear extended) 250 KIAS
V LO (max gear operating)
250 KIAS
200 KIAS
V REF (reference speed, final approach) MLW 117 KIAS
V MO (max operating speed)
Below 8,000 ft
8,000 to 26,515 ft
260 KIAS
305 KIAS
M MO (max Mach number) 0.75
V S1 (stall, clean) 106 KIAS
V SO (stall, in landing configuration) 94 KIAS

For more information, contact Citation Marketing, Cessna Aircraft Co., Post Office Box 7706, Wichita, Kansas 67277-7706; telephone 316/517-6449; fax 316/517-6640;

All specifications are based on manufacturer's calculations. All performance figures are based on standard day, standard atmosphere, sea level, max gross weight conditions unless otherwise noted.

Thomas A. Horne

Thomas A. Horne | AOPA Pilot Editor at Large, AOPA

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.