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Production ceases for Cessna's speed demonProduction ceases for Cessna's speed demon

When it first made the scene in 1996, Cessna’s Citation X broke the mold by offering an unapologetic choice to those whose priority was speed—and lots of it. One look at its large 4,500-pounds-thrust Rolls Royce/Allison AE3007C engines and their oversize nacelles broadcast the message: Here’s a 528-knot, 3,450-nautical-mile, 51,000-foot fire-breather for those wanting to cover 3,000 nm with up to eight to nine passengers. With a maximum speed of 0.935 Mach it can cruise deep into the transonic speed range, coming enticingly close to the speed of sound.

 

Photo courtesy of Textron Aviation.

The 1996-2013 models came with Honeywell Primus 2000 avionics, but in 2014 the switch was made to Garmin’s G5000 avionics suite, making these Citation X+ models.

But recently the news came that the Citation X’s glow has apparently faded. Since its introduction, the competition has continually challenged the Citation X+, until it reached the point where a mere four airplanes were sold last year.

“This has been expected for some time now,” said Rolland Vincent, creator and director of JetNet IQ, a business aviation marketing and forecasting service. “The airplane never really caught on, and then that lower-$20-million-class market shifted to a larger cabin.

“In many ways the Citation X was ahead of its time when it was introduced. Its real validation came when fractional operator NetJets bought 75 of them,” Vincent said. “But with the X+, all the large-cabin, flat-floor competition at the same price point it became a sales challenge.”

Today’s current competitors in the new marketplace may not be as fast as the X+, but that doesn’t seem to be the priority. Customers appear to prioritize a more comfortable, flat-floor cabin over the promise of speed. The Citation X and X+ have dropped aisles.

In no small way, Textron made its own competition for the X+. It’s the Citation Longitude, which is close to certification. The Longitude, while comparably priced, offers a wider cabin and a slightly longer range than the X and X+. However, the Longitude’s max cruise speed—476 knots—is some 40 knots slower than the X+’s under optimal conditions. “There may come a day when speed may well return as a sales draw in, say, eight to 10 years,” Vincent said. “But in the meantime, the Longitude is well positioned as a X+ replacement, and will take Textron well into the future in that market segment.”

Thomas A. Horne

Thomas A. Horne

AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
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.
Topics: Jet, Financial

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