Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free membership trial today! Click here

The king of speed

Flying the Citation X+

  • The king of speed.
  • The X+ cabin is 17 inches longer than its Citation X predecessor, and can easily accommodate double-club seating.
  • The cockpit features an uncluttered panel design.
  • The Garmin G5000 avionics suite, complete with dual touchscreen controls.
  • Despite high landing speeds and long, swept wings, the low sitting position and trailing link main landing gear make for soft touchdowns.
  • The Rolls-Royce engines have a total of 540 pounds of additional thrust compared to the previous, straight Citation Xs.
  • The autothrottles.
  • An optional, large refreshment center promises to be a popular choice.
  • Takeoff procedure on the X+ is simple.

Cessna’s original Citation X was introduced in 1990, and the first production aircraft was delivered to golfing legend Arnold Palmer. To this day, Palmer flies that same aircraft as his primary means of transportation. One of the greatest claims to fame for the original Citation X was its incredible speed, with a maximum operating Mach (MMO) of 0.92, or 547 KTAS.

In 2008, Gulfstream said that its newly announced flagship, the Gulfstream G650, would have a MMO of Mach 0.925. Having held the top speed spot for 12 years, Cessna wasn’t about to allow that title to be claimed with such ease, responding with the introduction of the Citation X+. With a claimed maximum cruising speed of Mach 0.935, the newly certified Citation X+ is the speed king of business aviation. To help illustrate how fast Mach 0.935 really is, during certain phases of flight in the right atmospheric conditions it’s possible to see sonic shock waves propagating over the transonic wing.

I had the opportunity to fly Cessna’s fastest jet on eight legs over four days, starting with a transcontinental flight from Santa Barbara, California, to Newport, Rhode Island. From there, we flew on to Washington, D.C.; then to Sea Island, Georgia; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Aspen, Colorado; back to Santa Barbara; and finally to my home airport in Santa Monica, California. Between the various flight conditions and airports that we experienced, by the end of the trip I was able to fully appreciate what the Citation X+ does for its fortunate owners.

For one, the world gets much smaller when you’re traveling at 93.5 percent of the speed of sound. Crossing states feels like crossing counties. What before felt like hours, feels like mere minutes in the Citation X+. For example, with groundspeeds surpassing 700 mph, it took just four hours and 20 minutes to go from Santa Barbara to Newport, a 2,299-nm journey. With those sorts of numbers, one can’t help but to be impressed by the performance capability of the Citation X+.

In addition to being the fastest business jet in operation, the Citation X+ also is certified to the highest operating altitude for business jets, which is 51,000 feet. At FL510, it’s hard not to feel like you’re pushing the boundaries of general aviation. From FL510 the curvature of the Earth is clearly visible, making one feel more like an astronaut than a pilot. Typically, FL510 is reserved for longer-range flights to get every mile out of the Citation X+’s 3,300-plus nm range. At FL510 we experienced fuel burns as low as 1,380 pph (about 205 gph) at a cruise speed of 475 KTAS and a Mach of 0.845. Down lower, at a more typical cruising altitude of FL410, the Citation X+ will do about 525 KTAS burning 2,457 pph (367 gph) of fuel.

Hand-flying the Citation X+ is different from other Citations because of its hydraulically powered primary flight controls. In addition to full mechanical back-up, the system has artificial feel built in. The roll and pitch feedback are constant, independent of the speed of the aircraft, and the inputs and outputs are very predictable.

The Citation X+ has the third iteration of Rolls-Royce’s AE3007 engine. The first 172 Citation Xs had Rolls-Royce’s AE3007C engines, which produce 6,442 pounds of thrust. The next 141 aircraft were equipped with the AE3007C1 engine, producing 6,764 pounds of thrust. The Citation X+ has even more thrust, with the upgraded AE307C2 and its 7,034 pounds of thrust—which, of course, improves the jet’s takeoff, climb, and cruise performance.

With an aircraft of this size, an auxiliary power unit (APU) typically is used for ground operations. APUs provide their own electrical and pneumatic power, so no ground power unit is needed for engine starts—and the cabin can be cooled significantly during the preboarding process. As the engines on the Citation X+ utilize an air-driven start system, the APU is required to get the main engines started.

I don’t know of a pilot who hasn’t at one point or another wished they could have the opportunity to fly something this fast, and here I was about to do just that. Takeoff speeds for the day were: V1—115 knots; VR—120 knots; V2—124 knots; and VENR—190 knots.

Takeoff procedure on the X+ is simple. Once you’ve used the tiller to line up on the runway, remove your left hand from the tiller and place it on the yoke. To set thrust, first arm the autothrottle by hitting a small toggle switch at the bottom of the levers, then advance the levers to about 50 percent. The autothrottle system takes over and thrust is automatically set to maximum available takeoff power.

The Citation X+ is both Cessna’s and Garmin’s first foray into the world of autothrottle technology. This elevates Garmin’s capabilities to those of the larger flight-deck suppliers (Honeywell and Rockwell Collins). Autothrottles have both manual and FMS control modes, where the jet will fly at predetermined speeds based upon the phase of flight—or any desired manual speed set by the pilot.

When the engines achieve maximum takeoff thrust, it’s time to hold on as the 36,600-pound jet is rocketed down the runway by a total 14,068 pounds of thrust. Once airborne, and if armed appropriately, the VNAV profile sets the climb speed in the terminal environment to 200 KTAS within four miles of the departure airport and below 2,000 feet agl. From there, the jet accelerates to 250 KTAS until 10,000 feet msl. The jet further accelerates to 285 KTAS until it reaches Mach 0.85. It will maintain Mach 0.85 all the way through the climb into the high 30s or low 40s. In other words, the Citation X+ climbs at speeds faster than most airliners cruise. As an extra safety measure, the auxiliary power unit (APU) is left on until 18,000 feet in the rare event that one of the engines rolls back and an inflight engine restart is needed.

Upon reaching cruise at FL410, I was able to spend more time getting familiar with the Garmin G5000 system. The flight deck on the Citation X+ is one of the largest areas of improvement over its predecessor’s Honeywell cockpit. The Citation X+ and its brother, the Sovereign X+, were Cessna’s first certification platforms for Garmin’s flagship flight deck product. It provides operators with three 14-inch widescreen displays with split-screen capability, and four iPad-like touchscreen control panels. These control panels are used to configure flight displays, tune radios, adjust audio settings, enter/modify flight plans, calculate performance, view checklists, and manage aircraft systems.

Any operator familiar with the G1000 or G3000 will feel right at home in the flight deck of the Citation X+. It took me about 10 minutes of looking around the cockpit before I felt relatively comfortable with the flight deck operation. The Citation X+ comes standard with electronic checklists, synthetic vision technology (SVT), electronic charts, SafeTaxi, performance calculators, system synoptic displays, and much more.

Despite the high landing speeds, with the extra-long wing, low sitting position, and trailing-link landing gear, it’s fairly easy to land the jet softly—if everything is just right. Right after landing, the procedure is to immediately and manually deploy the speed brakes to dump all lift from the wing; otherwise, the jet could inadvertently become airborne again. While deploying the speed brakes, you must deliberately push the yoke forward to get the nose down—an action that feels somewhat unnatural and takes a few landings to get used to.

With the nose on the ground, the thrust reversers can be deployed and manual braking can be applied. Between the brakes and the thrust reversers, the Citation X+ has surprisingly short landing distances. At sea level, the landing distance at the maximum landing weight of 32,000 pounds is 3,330 feet. The day we landed in Santa Fe, it was calculated to be 4,330 feet.

Cessna interior designers updated the X+ cabin with a highly modern look, complete with upgraded high-gloss wood, embedded mood/LED lighting, and a cabin entertainment system that can be completely controlled via an iPad or via touchscreen controls embedded in the arm rests—which are invisible when not in use. The seats have been redesigned with increased seat pitch, fully stowable armrests, footrests for the forward-facing passengers, and optional lumbar support.

Compared to its predecessor, the X+ cabin grew 17 inches in length, which yields more legroom in the forward club area, more space between the two club sections, and more distance behind each of the seats—allowing the seats to recline farther. While the standard cabin features a double-club seating layout for eight, a ninth passenger can use an added belted lavatory, which is a certified seat for takeoff and landing.

In addition to the standard configuration, operators have the option to order a few different configurations in the main cabin—a larger refreshment center that covers the first cabin window, offering more storage; a smaller refreshment center on the right side, with a single additional side-facing seat; a forward jump seat that slides out of the closet and faces forward into the cockpit; and in the aft club section, a three-place divan can be installed on the left side.

With improvements to what is already a proven design at hand, the Citation X+ has reestablished Cessna as the speed and technology leader in the super-midsize class of aircraft. While the two-pilot Citation X+ is most likely not an owner-flown airplane, its speed and cabin improvements have made many corporations that need speed in their business look long and hard at the iconic aircraft.

Cyrus Sigari is the CEO of JetAVIVA, a reseller of light jets.

Photography courtesy Cessna and by Mike Fizer

Cessna Citation X+

Average equipped Price: $23.7 million

Powerplants | (2) Rolls-Royce AE3007C2, 7,034 lbs thrust ea.
Maintenance interval | 4,500 hours
Length | 73 ft 7 in
Height | 19 ft 3 in
Wingspan | 69 ft 2 in
Wing area | 527 sq ft
Wing loading | 69.5 lb/sq ft
Seats | 9-12
Cabin length | 30 ft 8 in
Cabin width | 5 ft 6 in
Cabin height | 5 ft 8in
Basic operating weight | 22,464 lb
Max ramp weight | 36,900 lb
Max takeoff weight | 36,600 lb
Zero fuel weight | 24,978 lb
Max useful load | 2,514 lb
Payload w/full fuel | 1,505 lb
Max landing weight | 32,000 lb
Fuel capacity | 12,931 lb (1,930 gals) usable

Balanced field length, SL @ 15 deg C/ 59 deg F | 5,250 ft
High-speed cruise, FL370 32,000 pounds (speed, fuel burn) | 524 KTAS, 2,999 pph/ 447 gph
FL490 32,000 pounds (speed, fuel burn) | 464 KTAS, 1,555 pph/ 232 gph
Max range @ max payload | 2,850 nm
Max operating altitude | 51,000 ft
Single engine service ceiling | 28,835 ft

Limiting and recommended airspeeds
VS1 (stall, clean) | 136 KIAS
VSO (stall, landing configuration) | 115 KIAS
V1 (takeoff decision speed) | 141 KIAS
VR (rotation) | 141 KIAS
VFE (max flap extended, full flaps) | 180 KIAS
VLE (max gear operating) | 210 KIAS
VLO (max gear extended) | 210 KIAS
VREF(@ max landing weight) | 132 KIAS
VMO (max operating speed) at sea level to 8,000 ft | 270 KIAS
VMO (max operating speed) at 8,000 ft to 30,650 ft | 350 KIAS
MMO (max Mach number) | 0.935 M

Extra: As a reminder to stow speed brakes before landing, an alert sounds when airspeed drops below VREF + 15 knots.

For more information: Citation Marketing, Cessna Aircraft Company, Post Office Box 7706, Wichita Kansas 67277-7706;

All specifications are based on manufacturer’s calculations.

Related Articles