October 16, 2006, was my first day as manager of communications at Cessna Aircraft Co. It happened to be media day at the National Business Aircraft Association’s annual Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition, and it was my first time at this highly sophisticated show.
Cessna’s booth was extravagant, with massive TV screens showing video clips of Citation jets flying in front of beautiful backgrounds, highlighted by dramatic music. Then-president and CEO Jack Pelton announced three new airplanes that day, so it was a busy day for the communications team to say the least. One of the airplanes we announced was the Citation CJ4.
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With seats for up to 11 people, the Citation CJ4 Gen2 is the largest 525-series jet built to date. The all-metal twinjet shares many features with its siblings, including the external size of the metal tube and Williams FJ-44 turbofan engines. “The CJ4 offers the strongest performance and payload balance yet in the CJ series, with more standard features and passenger comforts than ever before,” Pelton said. While this was the official announcement of the CJ4, Cessna had already accepted 70 orders.
In February of this year—15 years after Pelton announced the CJ4—Textron Aviation certificated[AC1] the CJ4 Gen2. Cessna, which became a business segment of Textron in 1992, has previously used a simple “plus” for its upgrades. But Jimmy Beeson, technical marketing manager at Textron Aviation, said Gen2 is a new, standardized way to “demonstrate to our customer base that we are listening to their feedback and continue to invest in our legacy products.” And as such, the CJ4 Gen2 delivers.
The Citation CJ4 Gen2 was born into a storied legacy of airplanes coming out of Cessna’s factories in Wichita and Independence, Kansas. The company’s nearly 94-year history, spearheaded by Clyde Cessna, began with decades of extreme success in the single-engine- and multiengine-piston market, building thousands of training aircraft for civilian and military pilots as well as owner-flown products.
Cessna Aircraft Co. started dabbling in jets in the mid-1950s, and its first bizjet offering was the Fanjet 500, which later became the Citation, named after a thoroughbred racehorse. It was announced in 1968 and achieved FAA certification in 1971. The airplane became an instant success—and Cessna delivered 52 Citation 500s in 1972. Following a long list of successful Citation models, Cessna’s Citation X design team won the Robert J. Collier Trophy in 1996 for developing the first business jet to hit a cruise speed of Mach 0.92.
Until 1989, all Citations were certified to be flown by two pilots. But that year, Cessna announced the CitationJet—later “CJ” for short—to provide options for owners who wanted to fly solo. It developed into a series of CJs under the same single-pilot type certificate—the coveted 525 type. Today, Textron Aviation’s 525-series models in production include the CJ3+, CJ4 Gen2 and M2—a derivative of the CJ1. The initial type-rating training takes about 16 days of ground and flight sessions. While no new type rating is required to swap from one to another, pilots need to go through approximately five days of differences training when moving between models.
With a range that spans the country and speed that gets you there fast, the CJ4 is considered the flagship of the 525 series. Two FJ44-4A fanjets—each producing 3,621 pounds of thrust—propel the jet as high as 45,000 feet and as fast as 451 ktas. With a full-fuel payload of 1,122 pounds and a takeoff field length of 3,410 feet, it is a highly capable machine.
Using long-range cruise power, the CJ4 Gen2 can go up to 2,140 nm, according to the company. That doesn’t quite get you from Los Angeles to New York, but you can go from LA to Atlanta, from San Diego to Orlando, or from New York to Phoenix without having to stop. From Denver—where I conducted the flight test for this report—we could have reached as far south as Costa Rica and as far north as the southern tip of Alaska.
But the CJ4 Gen2 also shows great utility for shorter trips. The owner of the aircraft I flew for the flight test is president and CEO of ADS—a company that provides disaster-response services, such as temporary housing and associated facilities—and he took delivery this summer of his new CJ4 Gen2. While the owner doesn’t fly the airplane up front, he has followed the classic CJ ownership track. He started flying a CJ1 in 2017. He soon upgraded to a CJ2+ and, this year, decided to go for a brand-new CJ4 Gen2. “What happened is that we needed to go further faster,” he said.
“Our work is never planned because that’s what the word ‘disaster’ means,” he continued. After owning the CJ4 Gen2 for three months, he had put 160 hours on the airplane. A few days before our interview, he conducted five meetings in one day in five states: Florida, Virginia, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas. There are times when he gets a contract to set up a 5,000-man camp in 72 hours. “The plane is critical, or the jobs fall behind,” and that can cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It’s not just the efficiency of travel that has helped the owner realize the return on investment. “We have had Wi-Fi in the last two planes, so literally it looks like a mini office in the back of the plane,” he said. “I can be back on the computer before the plane even takes off.”
Exploring the CJ4 Gen2
On a crisp, clear fall morning, I mounted the new and improved airstairs of the CJ4 Gen2 at Centennial Airport (KAPA) in the southern part of the Denver metropolitan area. Many CJ operators carry a step stool to get to the first step of the airstair. The CJ4 Gen2 adds a step on the bottom and a handrail that folds out from the doorframe. These two additions make it really easy to step into the cabin. Sadly, it was too bright to appreciate the new lights on the stairs and the cool effect from the logo light that would have lit up the tarmac under the first step.
If you continue walking up the airstair, you’ll walk right into the side-facing seats. The airplane I flew had the optional two-seat couch. The backrests fold down, and the backside has a nonslip material and attachment points for a cargo net or straps, allowing the space to be used for additional luggage. However, the armrest between the seats protrudes above the folded backrests, so you can’t put an oversize flat item there. No need for that, however. The aft and forward cargo compartments provide 1,000 pounds between them, with 40 pounds of internal capacity found within the larger closet.
Between the entrance and cockpit is the galley, which has a newly designed countertop that pulls out to provide more space. There are several cabinets, some of which have drawers and stowaway doors that provide easy access to whatever is stored in the compartments. A standard power port in one of the cabinets allows for a regular coffee machine or Keurig/Nespresso unit. These can be replaced quickly and cheaply compared with aircraft-compliant coffee systems, which are not only expensive but can also take time to replace. A high-power port is an option, and hot tanks are standard.
While bleed air provides heat and pressurization, the air conditioning is an electrically operated vapor-cycle machine. Pilots and passengers who are used to getting cooked on the ground because of insufficient air from an underpowered APU will love plugging into a ground power unit and getting terrific airflow. It was 23 degrees Celsius while we were going through the interior details—plenty warm to turn a jet cabin into a sauna. But it was nice and cool inside.
While it wasn’t time to “go,” I headed to the lavatory. The Gen2 has two CoolView skylights that provide a pleasant and open feel in that relatively small space. The new optional vanity features stone countertops and several compartments in which to store bathroom necessities. It’s a nice setup, but the mirror above the vanity appeared somewhat warped—perhaps a function of the shape of the bulkhead. Another useful feature is a handle that folds down from the ceiling for hanging clothes. The lav itself can be serviced from an external port.
While it’s not quite a stand-up cabin for an average human like me, walking through the cabin is easy since the seats and armrests can be pushed right against the cabin walls. The completely redesigned seats are extremely comfortable and swivel to provide optimum positioning. Tray tables fold out from the side walls, and there are plenty of power ports (USB and standard) in the cabin and cockpit. Textron Aviation has its own interiors manufacturing facility in Wichita, so while the CJ4’s seats and six color schemes likely serve most customers’ wants and needs, modifications are possible.
The second row of seats slide way back, providing at least a foot of space between the knees of passengers in the club seats. The seats also recline completely flat, providing a comfortable—and welcoming—place to take a nap.
The potential for a proper nap is maximized by the new window shades, which can be operated from switches in the cabin or an app that also can adjust multiple cabin lights. The lights are dimmable, providing a pleasant ambiance. The shades and lights can also be controlled from a panel in the galley within reach of the pilots. The pleated window shades have two sections: one that provides privacy but allows light to break through and one that provides complete darkness in the cabin.
With the cockpit beckoning, I deferred the nap and headed toward the front.
Flying the CJ4 Gen2
I sat down next to Textron Aviation pilot Don Woodward. Adding to the excitement of the flight was the fact that I had demo’d Woodward in the Cessna TTx about 13 years prior when we were both working for Cessna. Woodward gave me a choice of seats. Generally, I would always prefer the left, but because I have mostly flown jets from the right seat as a first officer, I chose that position.
Garmin and Avidyne have dominated my general aviation flying, but I’ve come to love the Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite during my past few years of airline flying. While very familiar, the Pro Line 21 version in the CJ4 Gen2 has significantly crisper LCD displays and slightly different buttonology from the model found in the jets I regularly fly.
Going from Garmin to Collins—as a pilot would do if moving up from the Mustang or other CJ models, for example—is quite a transition. The system is operated through hard buttons and menus that are not as intuitive as Garmin’s touchscreen FMS. For those who reject the transition (personally, I like learning new avionics, but it’s not for everyone), Textron Aviation offers the CJ3+. You lose one seat, about 35 knots on the top speed, approximately 125 nm of range and a few features covered in the sidebar (“What Makes the CJ4 Gen2 Different?”), but the CJ3+ is still a capable option for pilots who would rather fly behind the Garmin G3000.
The Pro Line 21 in the CJ4 Gen2 allows the pilot to obtain digital ATIS and pre-departure clearances—notable features for pilots who are used to writing down and reading back that information. Landing elevation is automatically set to schedule the pressurization system for the destination airport in a flight plan. Like most avionics suites these days, Pro Line 21 offers live traffic and weather, as well as full navigation capabilities including departure and arrival procedures. With proper weight-and-balance data, the system delivers the applicable V-speeds for departure to be entered for display on the PFD.
We were only three people on board with 3,800 pounds of fuel, so the demo can’t be considered to represent performance at max takeoff weight. In fact, for the flight, our takeoff weight was 14,000 pounds—more than 3,000 pounds below the max takeoff weight. But it was a way to check on the accuracy of Cessna’s performance app. It told us the time to climb to 40,000 feet from Denver would be 13 minutes. To the service ceiling of 45,000, it would take us 18 minutes, though we chose to stop at FL 400.
Bright blue skies prevented me from evaluating the Collins MultiScan weather-radar system (which pilots apparently love for its automatic tilt capability), the anti-ice system (which is comprised of heated engine cowls and wing leading edges), or the boots on the horizontal stabilizer. The electrically heated windshield has been standard on the CJ4 since 2010, which eliminates any condensation issues, Woodward said.
While unlatched doors or latches will generate a CAS message, the GPU port won’t raise the alarm. So, it’s critical to verify with the ground handler that the GPU is indeed disconnected before starting up.
The FJ44-4As are fadec-controlled, making the startup almost as simple as that of a car. Just push the start and run buttons, monitor the gauges and CAS messages, and away you go. Speaking of easy, pilots will appreciate the fact that there are fewer memory items for emergency procedures compared with the CJ2 and CJ3 models, Woodward said. Technicians will be happy to know that the panel has an event marker that the pilot can push to highlight any unusual occurrences in flight to make it easier for maintenance personnel to troubleshoot.
The rudder pedals provide up to 20 degrees of turn and differential braking up to 90 degrees on the ground. It was surprisingly easy to taxi, and I pointed the CJ4 Gen2 toward Runway 17L. When cleared for takeoff, I lined up with the centerline and applied the brakes. I held them until we had achieved full power and released them slowly to prevent a big jolt. David Bodlak, our passenger who is also a Textron Aviation pilot, shot a video of the runway edge to see where we lifted off. Even though the elevation at KAPA is 5,400 feet, we lifted off the pavement at around the 2,000-foot mark. It was 23 degrees C—8 degrees above standard—so the hot-and-high performance boast that Textron Aviation gives the CJ4 Gen2 was confirmed.
At 240 knots indicated, we climbed at a steady 2,400 fpm, and going through FL 200, we were still climbing at 2,300 fpm. At FL 290, we transitioned to Mach 0.64, up to 40,000 feet. With Denver’s busy airspace, we weren’t able to make an uninterrupted climb, but we still made it to FL 400 in about 17 minutes—4 minutes above the app estimate for a straight climb.
At 40,000 feet with max cruise power, we were showing 438 ktas. At that altitude, the FMS told us we could get to either Chicago or Los Angeles in about one hour and 40 minutes—less than two hours total, including the climb. But the best speed is realized at 33,000 feet, so we descended and found a steady 451 ktas, burning a bit more than 1,400 pounds of fuel per side. Again, we were a bit on the light side, but it’s nice to be able to see the promised numbers in real life, and at ISA+2, the flight conditions were not helping the jet.
The Pro Line 21 tracked the DUNNN3 arrival beautifully. All we had to do was manage the altitudes and speeds. The speed brakes are a clean-sheet design for the Gen2. Unlike most speed brakes, which are either on or off—or have multiple stops—you can slide the lever to select the exact amount that you need. The speed brakes can be applied at any speed but need to be stowed before you reach 50 feet agl. There is an exception that allows for landings with the speed brakes on at airports with steep approaches and short runways, Woodward said.
I could tell that the airplane was designed with the pilot in mind. It’s simply a joy to hand-fly, with a balanced control feel. Coming in on final, I got an unintentional demo of the TCAS II system. We were lined up for 17L, and another airplane was approaching Runway 17R, prompting the system to tell us to climb. Because Woodward didn’t see the offending airplane, he immediately took the controls and went around. I was happy to fly another lap around the patch.
Our second attempt was clear of alerts, and once again, I lined up with 17L. The airplane felt totally stable on short final at around 115 kias, and the trailing-link gear helped me make a smooth landing. I felt no reason to stress the brakes or wheels to attempt a max performance landing, so we simply rolled down to taxiway A16 and taxied back to the FBO.
The CJ4 Gen2 still exhibits the terrific performance that the model was intended to from the start. With the latest upgrades, Textron Aviation has a lot to be proud of at the top of the CJ series.
What Makes the CJ4 Different?
With seats for up to 11 occupants, the Citation CJ4 Gen2 is definitely on the top edge of the single-pilot spectrum. And size isn’t the only thing that makes the Gen2 stand out from its 525-type brethren.
The CJ4 Gen2 has a closed-center hydraulic system, which operates at 3,000 psi versus 1,500 psi in the other CJs. This system enables the modular feature of the speed brakes and allows for the use of multiple hydraulic functions simultaneously. The open center system of the other CJs only allows for one function at a time.
The CJ4 was also the first in the 525 series with a single-point refueling system and an electrically heated windshield, enabled through the airplane’s electrical system which has two alternators.
But the main difference is in the wing. All of the other CJs have straight wings of various lengths based on size, but the CJ4 Gen2’s has a 12.5-degree sweep. In fact, the wing design is closer to that of the Citation Sovereign. Boundary-layer energizers at the leading edges help maintain laminar flow over the wing, and two stall strips at the wing root help reduce the stall speed by causing the root of the wing stall first.
Like the Sovereign, the CJ4 Gen2 has three speed-brake panels on each side. The design team also incorporated other features from the Citation Sovereign’s wing that allow for slower approach speeds. So, even though the CJ4 Gen2 is a bigger, heavier airplane, the VREF speeds are comparable to or slower than the other CJs.