With all of its STCs, the company generates a lot of business on work other than re-engining projects. Sierra has popular STCs for adding extended fuel, a quick-release radome, glareshield switches, an enlarged cabin door, four-point pilot harnesses, and even a three-place aft divan. Often, customers who come in to get new engines on their Citations, and new engines only, leave with a handful of other mods.
One selling tool that isn't really intended that way, or so Sierra says, is their loan/lease program. Occasionally when Sierra customers take an FJ44-equipped Sierra Citation to fly while their jet is in the shop for maintenance, they come back complaining that now they need engines too. Sierra both apologizes and is glad to oblige them.
There are, in fact, lots of other services in addition to engine swaps and radome refurbs that Sierra, or its Uvalde-based partners, offer. While their airplane is in Uvalde, many customers choose to completely redo the airplane while they're getting new engines, opting for fresh paint, a new interior and upgraded avionics.
The airplane we flew was the factory demonstrator, and it was completely refurbished, with a nice leather interior, new upholstery and carpet, and, of course, brand-new FJ44s.
It was also outfitted with a mostly new avionics system, featuring dual Universal primary flight displays and a pilot MFD, with dual Garmin GNS 430 navigators and more. The autopilot was the original and still capable Sperry SPZ-500. It's a good and modern avionics system, though it's not on a par with the Pro Line 21 system in a new CJ3, for example. For a variety of reasons, when it comes to the avionics, it's tough for modifiers to compete with factory-new airplanes.
There are other additions particular to the new engines, including new gauges and controls, and the throttle system is modified for the fadec. Also gone are the controls for the thrust reversers. Huffstutler said that while some customers express concern over their loss, they quickly get over it when they realize the new airplanes simply stop in less distance than the old ones, even without TRs.
Huffstutler says that the decision on the part of Citation II owners to go with brand-new FJ44s on their old birds is a value proposition. While it's hard in this economy to measure the value of any investment, there is still a lot to be said for upgrading the airplane you already own. And for those looking to purchase a used airplane, buying an already refurbished Super II or Super S-II instead of a new, smaller airplane gives you a lot of performance with the comfortable cabin of the Citation II. When Sierra puts its airplanes side by side with existing, unmodified IIs, the performance delta is striking. When it compares them to comparable new airplanes, like the CJ3 or Learjet 45, the performance numbers are comparable and the acquisition price is about half. While prices vary widely based on options chosen, and needed, an extensively converted Super II goes for between $3.5 and $4.6 million.
A big part of the value is to be found with the improved performance of the Williams engines. You go farther on less fuel. Over time, those savings add up. And Sierra is a true believer in the Williams maintenance plan, the Total Assurance Program (TAP), touting its lower overall costs, including no signup fee, better labor and shipping coverage, and 100 percent coverage for wear-out items and mandatory service bulletins. Sierra estimates the savings on maintenance with the FJ44s over the life of the engines (TBO) to be in the neighborhood of $300,000.
Of course, not everything in life is a value proposition. The quality of life improvements that the Super II and Super S-II offer are profound. Compared to the originals, the Sierra airplanes are faster, quieter, smoother and more comfortable. They fly higher, farther and more efficiently, and on some longer trips do away with the need for the fuel stop.
It's interesting to think that with an infusion of new technology, some tender loving care and a sizable investment in the process, you can get a 30-something-year-old airplane up to speed. That you can make it nearly as good or, in some cases, better than new in the process is nothing short of remarkable. It's all testimony to the stout, smart and capable airplanes that Cessna built starting back in the 1970s, and to the improvements in small turbofan engine design that Williams International has achieved in more recent years with the FJ44-series engines.
Ever since it showed up on the scene in Uvalde, Texas, some 30-odd years ago, Sierra Industries has put itself in a great position, taking that new engine technology and marrying it to some great existing airframes.
The results of that marriage are some truly remarkable "new" airplanes.