Over the Rainbow

  • Wichita manufacturer Cessna calls its Citation Latitude a game changer.
  • Photo by Mike Fizer
    Financially troubled Hawker Beechcraft, which is headquartered in Wichita, recently entered funding negotiations with a Chinese company. Photo by Mike Fizer
  • Photo by Mike Fizer
    Hawker Beechcraft Photo by Mike Fizer
  • Photo by Brett Schauf
    Hawker Beechcraft Photo by Brett Schauf
  • Photo by Dan Moore
    Hawker Beechcraft Photo by Dan Moore
  • Learjet is adding to its Wichita facility more ramp space, new hangars, and extra parking for the workers it intends to hire over the next decade.
  • Bill Lear
  • Gulfstream G280
  • Photo by Mike Fizer
  • Photo by Mike Fizer
  • Photo by Brett Schauf
  • Photo by Dan Moore

Cessna’s Thress is excited about his company’s new jets and what they offer customers, who tend to be devoted to the brand and typically look to Cessna first when considering a new purchase. "In every case that we project an improvement, change, or new model, we have to understand what the customer gets out of it," he says.

With its new business jets, Cessna is filling many of the gaps in its product lineup, so that current owners can remain Cessna customers when they upgrade. For example, the M2, which Cessna expects to begin delivering late next year, will serve as a step up for current Mustang owners looking for more speed, more sophisticated avionics, and a private lavatory—the last a feature requested by many of the Mustang owners in the Citation Jet Pilots owners association (www.citationjetpilots.com), which Cessna regularly polls when developing new aircraft. Cessna also sees the M2 as an entry-level jet that can draw customers to the brand.

Cessna’s recently introduced Citation Longitude, which is expected to enter service in 2017 as the company’s longest-range aircraft, could keep buyers in the Cessna family who would have otherwise gone to another manufacturer for a super-midsize jet. The Longitude is also the first noncommercial jet expected to feature the new Silvercrest engines from French manufacturer Snecma. In addition to having the greatest thrust-to-efficiency ratio of any business-jet engine, the Silvercrest is an on-condition engine, meaning that it allows most repairs and scheduled maintenance to occur while it is still affixed to the aircraft, thus significantly reducing maintenance costs and turnaround times. The Longitude, along with the rest of Cessna’s forthcoming jets, will be equipped with the latest-generation avionics, which feature touchscreen controls, multiple large heads-up displays, and electronic databases, all of which reduce pilot workload and therefore can enhance safety.

"Most of the improvements in airplanes are evolutionary versus revolutionary," says Thress. "But the ones that are most visible right now are avionics." He notes that all of Cessna’s new models will feature Garmin avionics, to help pilots make the transition from one Citation model to the next.

Like Cessna’s forthcoming Citation Ten, Latitude, and Longitude, the Learjet 70 and 75 will feature the Garmin G5000 avionics suite. The Learjet 85, on the other hand, offers pilots the Pro Line Fusion avionics package from Rockwell Collins, which Bombardier recently certified for its ultralong-range Global 5000 and 6000 jets. The new generation of Garmin avionics and the Pro Line Fusion both feature a much cleaner and simpler dash than those of previous generations. They also include heads-up synthetic vision, touch-control flight displays, and integrated flight data, all of which make the pilot’s job easier. With their new models, Cessna and Learjet are also improving the flight experience for passengers.

"We’ve had numerous customer groups give us feedback on all sorts of things that we’ve been working on for about three years," says Young (including the development of the Learjet 85). "And we put about 98 percent of their comments into the planes—everything from ergonomics to maintainability to cabin screen locations." The strong, rigid composite material of the aircraft’s fuselage enables the installation of the largest windows ever on a Learjet.

In addition to being the longest-range Learjet ever built, the 85 is the largest. Measuring 665 cubic feet, the Learjet 85’s cabin has 19 percent more volume than that of the Cessna Citation Sovereign. However, Cessna’s two largest new models also have exceptionally spacious cabins. The Citation Latitude and Longitude jets share the same 6-foot-tall, 7-foot wide, flat-floor cabin shape, making them the tallest and widest in the Citation fleet. (The cabin of the Longitude is 4 feet longer than that of the Latitude.)

The new Cessna and Learjet models also enable travelers to remain connected and have access to cabin systems through their personal devices. All of the aircraft can be equipped with cabin-entertainment systems that offer wireless Internet access and connectivity with smartphones and tablet computers.

Bombardier-owned Flexjet—the fractional-share, jet card, and charter provider—recently announced that its customers will have first access to the Learjet 70 and 85. And as part of the nearly $10 billion order it announced in June, NetJets purchased 25 of Cessna’s $14.9 million Citation Latitudes, with the option to purchase 125 more. The Latitudes are expected to enter the NetJets fractional fleet in 2016.

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