A dream had just come true. Cessna invited me to spend a couple days with its new Mustang. I would pick the trips that looked interesting, and do the flying on my own. Cessna's top instructor and Mustang designated pilot examiner, Kirby Ortega, would be in the right seat to offer the occasional suggestion, and protect Cessna's asset in case I screwed up, but, for two days, I was the single pilot in my own Mustang.
I first flew the Mustang last summer before it was fully certified, and the airplane was a delight, delivering the performance Cessna had promised. Now that the first production Mustangs are being delivered to their owners, pilots want an update on the airplane in its final form, so Cessna came up with the idea of letting me do whatever I wanted in the Mustang for a couple of days to come as close as possible to the actual experience of having my own light jet. Cessna doesn't call the Mustang a very light jet (VLJ) because it is not really a revolutionary airplane as other VLJ makers say they will deliver, but an evolutionary airplane that builds on the nearly 40 years of experience the company has in designing business jets. The Mustang is certified to the same jet standards as the larger CJ series, for example, including all the system redundancy and engine-out balanced field takeoff performance. But because of its $2.7 million price tag in today's dollars, and its four passenger seats, the Mustang is the most attractive Citation for the owner pilot. Some of the hundreds of Mustang orders are from corporate flight departments, but most of the jets will be flown by their owners, at least some of the time. So, for my time in the Mustang I tried to fly the kind of trips a typical owner pilot would. The trips would not be possible by any other means without spending a day or two more away from home, and none of them could have been completed in the same day without your own jet.
On a bitterly cold morning in Wichita I decided a typical Mustang owner would head south, on business. Where would one likely do business south of Wichita? In Texas, of course. A flight to Houston to check up on my oil interests - may as well continue the dream - seemed like a good idea. After that a quick hop up to Dallas for lunch with the guy who was building my new shopping center would be good. And on the way home to Wichita I'd stop at Stillwater, Oklahoma, to leave some money with the Cowboys and maybe get my name carved into the new library.
The Mustang I was flying is number two and it was used for the function and reliability testing for certification. After FAA approval was earned, Cessna has piled on the hours flying all over the country in what it calls service testing. Mustang number two had just turned over 1,000 hours on the clock and looked great. The fit and finish both inside and out are excellent, and there were no visible signs of this Mustang's hours of experience with a variety of pilots at the controls. The airplane was still in "experimental" category, but only because it had a computer system installed to record a bunch of outputs from the Garmin G1000 avionics suite. Everything else was standard.
The Mustang generates many strong impressions when you walk up to it. First, it is bigger than you expect a four-passenger seat jet to be. And, to my eye, it's more attractive than some other Citations, mostly because of the shape of the windshield and nose. The gracefully curved windshield is electrically heated so the ductwork that gets the hot anti-ice air to the windshield of many other Citation models is gone. The Mustang windshield slopes back into the canopy, while earlier Citation designs have a much more upright windshield. The wing is very low and close to the ground, barely reaching up to my knee, and it is a pleasing shape with its 11-degree sweep of the leading edge. The T-tail looks right for a jet. But the greatest overall impression is of smoothness. The nose flows into the windshield, which sweeps into the canopy. The wing-to-fuselage fairing beautifully hides the fact that the entire fuselage is sitting on top of the wing. And the metalwork is free of ripples and waves.
One thing Citations do better than most business jets is hold baggage, and the Mustang is no exception. The nose compartment has a clear span across the entire width of the fuselage and can easily hold several golf bags, while the aft baggage is huge. Total external baggage is 57cubic feet. The only items that need to ride in the cabin are things you may want to use in flight.
One of Cessna's greatest design achievements is the Mustang main cabin door. A single flush handle opens and closes it with almost no friction on the mechanism. The door is bigger than on other members of the Citation 500 family, and operates more smoothly than any I have seen.
Once inside the Mustang, the cabin and cockpit cross section are on par with other light jets. The cockpit is actually easier to enter because the center pedestal does not go to the floor, so you can sit down and swing your toes under the pedestal instead of heaving your foot up and over. I'm 6 feet 2 inches but still raise the pilot's seat off its lowest position and pull it forward a couple of notches. The cockpit is as comfortable as any light jet, and more roomy than many.
The three big flat-panel displays of the Garmin G1000 avionics system fill the panel, but the 15-inch multifunction display (MFD) in the center dominates. You can use knobs on the display units to control the avionics system, or a keyboard mounted just below and aft of the throttles. You have to go all the way up to the newest over-$10 million midsize jets to find so much avionics capability.