Aircraft: Mustang Mojo

With its Citation Mustang, Cessna will offer business fliers one more reason to join the jet set. Like the other leading light jets—the Sino Swearingen SJ30-2 and the yet-to-be-completed Eclipse 500 and Safire S-26—the Mustang, scheduled for delivery at the end of 2006, travels faster, longer, and higher than any cabin-class turboprop or multipiston aircraft, and it is priced competitively.

Cessna says that the Mustang, in addition to trumping the prop-driven aircraft in every performance category, also holds an advantage over its entry-level jet competitors. “One of the biggest differences [between the Mustang and other light jets] is cabin size,” says Jessica Myers, Cessna’s manager of media relations. “The Mustang offers considerably more headroom and legroom.”

Still, the Mustang is not spacious enough for every turboprop owner. “The reason a guy like me flies a King Air right now is because there’s no other airplane under $4 million that can carry eight people and full cargo for 700 miles,” says Bill Rheinschild, a California real estate developer. While the Mustang can accommodate a maximum of six people—there are two seats in the cockpit, and the quiet and roomy 300-cu-ft cabin has two executive leather seats and an aft bench—the plane carries a price tag of only $2,295,000, which includes flight training. This is well under $4 million, although double the projected prices of the Eclipse and the Safire.

The Mustang cruises at 390 mph, climbs to a ceiling of 41,000 feet, and has a range of 1,500 miles. A pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PW615 engines powers the jet. Each produces 1,350 pounds of thrust, enabling the Mustang to take off with only 3,120 feet of runway and operate from local airfields as well as airports. However, neither performance nor purchase price is the primary concern for some aircraft owners; the biggest question is operating cost, especially in terms of fuel consumption. “To me it’s not the price of purchase,” says Mike George, who owns an alarm company and flies an Aerostar piston twin. “It’s the price of flying it.”

Because the aircraft has not yet been built, Cessna cannot offer any specific figures, but it claims that the jet’s operating cost will be well below that of a twin-engine turboprop. “As a point of reference, consider our other entry-level jet, the Citation CJ1 [a slightly larger jet than the Mustang], which is often compared to the [twin turboprop] King Air C90 in terms of performance,” says Myers. “In a typical 1,000-mile trip, the CJ1 will arrive nearly 90 minutes sooner than the King Air and will use virtually the same amount of fuel.”

Conklin & de Decker, a general aviation consulting firm, concurs that the cost of operation per nautical mile of Cessna’s six-passenger CJ1 is less than the cost of twin turboprops such as the King Air B200 and C90, and just slightly greater than the cost associated with the single-engine Pilatus PC-12 and Socata TBM 700 turboprops. Says David Wyndam, a Conklin & de Decker partner, “If the Mustang can come in under the cost of a C90 or other turboprops in its class per nautical mile, it could be competitive.”

With more than 300 orders (half of them from U.S. owners) placed to date, the Mustang is already competitive. If Cessna’s operating cost claims prove accurate, this light jet could become dominant.

Cessna, www.cessna.com

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