Customers chuckled at the jokes and still bought the airplane. That original Citation was, as you probably know, a huge hit. Cessna sold many hundreds of them. It also established a product niche, the straight-wing entry-level jet, that Cessna had pretty much to itself for the next decade and a half. Truth be told, there’s little competition today.
The one area in which the Citation was no better than a Lear was that it too needed to be flown by a crew, a situation remedied by Cessna in 1977 with the introduction of the single-pilot Citation I/SP. While the two-pilot airplane gave turboprops a run for their money, the single-pilot version, it could be argued, put most of them out of business. The only twin turboprop produced in any numbers that survived the ’80s was the Beechcraft King Air.
While Cessna evolved the Citation into a number of different larger models, some of which are still being built today, it ended production of the original entry-level jet in 1985, due in large part to the high relative cost of building the jet — it cost almost exactly as much for Cessna to build the Citation I as to build the higher-priced and higher-profit-margin Citation II and its spinoffs.
CitationJet: An Even Better Idea
Despite shelving the Citation, the fact is that Cessna never wanted to be out of the entry-level jet game, so soon after the end of its Citation I program, it began development of a new jet, one designed to be less expensive for the company to build and less expensive for the customer to buy and operate, while at the same time being a realistic single-pilot airplane. If that sounds like a tall order, you’re right.
The result was an all-new model that Cessna announced at the National Business Aircraft Association Convention in 1989. The jet, the Model 525 CitationJet, made its first flight a year and a half later, in April 1991.
From the beginning, Cessna planned to give clean-sheet treatment to the CitationJet.
There wasn’t really a choice; Cessna knew it couldn’t simply tweak the Citation and get where it knew it needed to be. No company is better at getting the most out of its lineup. If it could have made the Citation 500 work, it would have done it.
(And in case you were wondering, the airplane has been informally called the “CJ” since the outset. For the past decade, since the launch of the CJ1, all of the 525 descendants are simply “CJs.”)
In conceiving that new airplane, Cessna looked at the desired outcome from every conceivable angle and in fact wound up doing nearly every conceivable thing differently. The CitationJet ended up with a mostly new fuselage and a revolutionary new wing along with a new fuselage-to-wing fairing design, new engines and a new tail, as well as a new cabin.