As usual, it took longer than expected for Cessna and Garmin to work the bugs out of SVT in the Mustang, so actual deliveries of the capability didn't begin until late spring instead of the hoped-for last fall. SVT doesn't require hardware changes to the G1000 system because the necessary memory and computing power was already designed in. To say that SVT is "just a software change" is an oversimplification, but pretty close to the truth. Because Cessna and Garmin had planned to offer SVT in the Mustang all along airplanes already delivered can be retrofitted with the new software. The option adds $20,990 to the cost of a new Mustang, and the same to add the SVT capability to an airplane already delivered.
I have been lucky enough to fly the Mustang several times but am still impressed by the airplane. My initial reaction every time I walk up to a Mustang is to be impressed again by the exceptional quality of the construction and finish of the airframe. Cessna uses a great deal of metal bonding to build the aluminum airframe and the result is near perfect smoothness. Many people at first think the airframe is made from composite because the metal bonding required no rivets, and the relatively few rivets that are used are smoothly countersunk and then filled before painting so the wing and fuselage are amazingly slick.
Another Citation hallmark present in the Mustang are huge baggage compartments in both the nose and tail. And the cabin door is probably the best yet from Cessna with a uniform 24-inch width and simple one-hand open or closing mechanism that functions exactly the same from inside or outside of the airplane. The fuselage is not quite circular, with a wider area near the floor for more foot room. And the wing uses a unique high-lift airfoil with a straight trailing edge and a moderately swept leading edge. Very long-span flaps as well as the design of the airfoil itself provide excellent low-speed behavior for short takeoff and landing, but the moderate sweep also helps reduce cruise drag.
Getting into the Mustang cockpit is easier than in any other light or even medium-size business jet because there is no long center pedestal between the pilot seats, and the control columns extend into the instrument panel instead of the cockpit floor. In the Mustang you sit down and swing your feet under the short pedestal with none of the awkward one foot in, then step over the pedestal sort of lunging maneuver other jets require.
The Mustang systems are as simple as I can imagine in any all-weather airplane. The flaps and speed brakes are electrically operated. The landing gear and brakes use an electrically powered hydraulic powerpack so there are no engine-driven pumps or continuous flow of fluid. And the Mustang has very sophisticated power brakes with antiskid and locked wheel protection as all jets must. The windshields are electrically heated with no restrictions and, if you encounter icing, the boots take care of themselves, cycling on a predetermined schedule once you turn them on.
The Pratt & Whitney engines are fadec controlled, meaning that dedicated dual channel computers fully manage each engine so you can't overboost them and you don't need to look up target N1 settings for each takeoff and climb. Cessna still insists that you hit the starter buttons with the throttles in the idle fuel cutoff position just as we all did in the engines without fadec. I can't imagine that the fadec computer cares that the throttles are in cutoff because it's not going to add fuel for the start until it is happy with rotating speed and so on, but some old habits die hard.
Most jets have at least small quirks in the nosewheel steering system, or in the feel and touchiness of the brakes, but not the Mustang. Any pilot can be smooth in taxi right out of the chocks the first time. The checklists are mercifully short by the standards of most other business jets and you can have the Mustang ready for takeoff in a few short minutes.
The Mustang we were flying was typically equipped and had an empty weight of 5,360 pounds. That left 3,370 pounds for people, fuel and baggage. In other jets the industry uses a basic operating weight (BOW) that includes the weight of the required crew, cabin stores and so on. In the Mustang where the pilot is often a principal passenger BOW makes less sense so Cessna typically furnishes a basic empty weight (BEW) that includes no pilots. Of courses the Mustang can be flown by either a single pilot or crew. Maximum fuel capacity in the Mustang is 2,580 pounds, so this airplane had a full-fuel payload of 790 pounds but the weight of one or two pilots comes out of that number while it is already figured into the BOW of other jets.
For our flight we had 1,780 pounds of fuel on board, two pilots and a photographer, bringing ramp weight up to 7,720 pounds and takeoff weight to 7,660 pounds. With the temperature at 19° C at Wichita, the required runway for our takeoff -- which allows for a safe departure if an engine fails at the worst possible time -- was less than 3,000 feet and takeoff rotation speed was 84 knots. Those are the kind of runway lengths and speeds you see in a typical piston twin, except, and this is a big except, the piston twin will not always safely continue a takeoff after an engine failure but the required runway certification performance of the Mustang assures that it will fly away.
Because the mission was to see and photograph SVT in action it made no sense to climb to normal cruise altitude because there is nothing to see on the displays from high altitude. But let's say the mission was to fly a 500 nm trip with a forecast 50-knot headwind. The optimum cruise altitude to maximize speed and fuel efficiency would be around 35,000 feet where the Mustang at our weight would cruise at about 340 knots. With the headwind the trip would take about one hour plus 41 minutes and burn about 1,230 pounds of fuel. Fly the same trip with the same wind going the other direction and the time comes down to one hour plus 22 minutes, and fuel burn would be 914 pounds.
In no wind conditions the Mustang can stretch its legs to 1,110 nm or a little more, but that requires unrestricted climb approval from the controllers and the ability to stay at a fuel-saving high altitude until near the destination. Those conditions do exist, but they are infrequent in the busy airspace on either coast of the country. Using long-range cruise power settings can really chop the fuel flow, getting it down to well below 500 pounds per hour total, so if you had a tail wind the Mustang could fly some impressively long legs, but high-speed cruise is almost always the most effective when flying upwind.
I had flown the Garmin SVT in some single-engine airplanes, including Cessna's Skylane, so the view in the Mustang was not entirely new. It was, as usual for Kansas, blowing hard, so the flight path symbol never lined up in the center of the display as the Mustang had to be crabbed many degrees into the wind to maintain the desired track to the runway. I let the autopilot fly a coupled GPS approach to Hutchinson and the automatic flight control system did a great job despite the continuous turbulence. Hand-flying with flight director guidance also worked out great. But the flight path indicator was really useful when flying without guidance because I could put the indicator over the runway, which was far right of the nose, and track straight toward the threshold even though the wind direction and velocity was constantly changing.
There are very tall and infamous broadcast towers just to the southeast of the Hutch airport and the SVT was excellent at showing the existence of and our relative location to those towers. You would have to be asleep to fly into such an obstruction with the system on board.
The "highway in the sky" (HITS) row of boxes that provides a sort of flight director guidance on other SVT installations has not been implemented yet in the Mustang but may be available in the future. I don't find the HITS display to be particularly useful, especially in a jet where pilots should be using the flight director for all phases of flight. Some pilots find that flying through the HITS boxes to stay on a selected path is more natural than following flight director commands, so Cessna will probably make HITS available in the Mustang at some point.
Back at Wichita Cessna's Gordon Turner and I decided we'd pretend that because of whatever bad decisions or bad luck had come before, we were now out of options and alternates and just had to land no matter how low the weather. With the G1000 system coupled to the GPS approach with vertical guidance to Runway 19L, I let the airplane continue on down toward the runway. SVT showed the airport location first, then the runway outline. As we got closer the runway, complete with its markings, loomed on the display. Despite the wind we were lined up perfectly. I did look out the windshield at the last second, but I am confident the landing would have worked out okay with nothing more than the SVT image of the pavement. Even when rolling out with the nosewheel exactly on the centerline, the SVT image agreed that's where I was.
With its full crew advisory system that announces cautions and warnings in plain language messages, and its high degree of automation, the Mustang is in some respects technologically ahead of many other larger business jets. Now with synthetic vision the airplane takes another step to improve pilot's situational awareness, reduce workload and enhance safety.