““[Bill Gates] has been historically one of my best supporters…One of my favorite e-mails he ever sent me…I proposed this crazy project. And he sent back this two-line response: ‘This has got to be the craziest thing you’ve ever suggested. Please proceed.’” ”
Cessna Citation V/Ultra
The Citation V/Ultra is perhaps the best example of Cessna's well-honed ability to continually evolve a time-tested airframe into a market-leading workhorse. Based on the wildly popular Citation II, which entered production in 1977, the Ultra adds a slightly stretched fuselage, a plush interior, a more efficient high-speed wing, more powerful engines and updated avionics.
This is the airplane fractional provider NetJets bet the farm on when it was coming of age in the 1990s. NetJets would become the largest operator of Ultras, buying more than 60 brand new, and the company routinely flies them more than 1,200 hours a year. Corporate operators also appreciate the Ultra's simple systems and durability. One CFO practically gushed about his manufacturing company's pair of Ultras, which each log more than 600 hours a year.
"They're real workhorses," he said. "They have the right combination of load, range, speed and short-field capabilities."
From Middle America, the airplane can hit either coast, most of the time without taking on fuel. The Ultra's maximum cruising speed is close to 430 knots. At maximum weights, it can take off in less than 3,200 feet and land and stop in less than 2,200. It will climb to 45,000 feet at a blistering 4,100 feet per minute and carry two pilots and six passengers 1,960 nautical miles (no wind) and a full load
of eight passengers somewhat shorter distances. (An advertised ninth seat is the belted potty. If you've been reading my articles, you know I believe aircraft marketers are overreaching when they claim that those or other varieties of padded shelves are real seats.)
For its time, the Ultra offered the longest cabin in its class-17.3 feet, or four feet longer than a Learjet 31 or 35 and almost two feet longer than a Beechjet or a King Air 350. Slide, swivel and reclining executive passenger seats are arranged in a facing, double-club configuration. Adding a forward closet/refreshment center cuts the number of seats to seven (and yes, you really will want the in-cabin storage this offers-without it there is virtually none). The 14 cabin windows provide adequate natural light and the five-inch drop aisle yields 55.3 inches of "standing" room. The belted potty has privacy doors, a relief tube and a chemical toilet that must be emptied from the inside by carrying the basin through the passenger cabin.
The airplane's 63 cubic feet of baggage space will swallow up to 1,450 pounds-850 in the nose and 600 in the aft compartment. That's triple the luggage space of a King Air 350, according to Cessna.
The Ultra doesn't have an auxiliary power unit, so to keep it cool on the ramp you need to either plug into a ground cart or spool up the right engine. The aircraft does come standard with a "flood" cooling system that can be run on the ground through 10,000 feet. An optional vapor-cycle air-conditioning system works from the ground up to 18,000 feet and is something you really should have, as the flood system by itself doesn't always get the job done.
Most straight-wing Citation cabins can look a little worse for wear after a few years so it's a good idea to plan on new seat covering and carpet every five years, if not more often. You may also want to update the onboard entertainment equipment, as offerings have become considerably better in the last few years.
Any Cessna Citation Service Center and at least half a dozen independent completion centers within the continental U.S. and a few in Canada are well versed in cabin refurbishment and updating of the aircraft. Independent U.S. centers with strong Citation experience include Duncan, Elliott, Premier, Rose, Stevens and West Star; in Canada, the list includes Goderich and Flying Colours.
Carpet and recovering can run anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000, while a complete cabin gut job can cost $500,000. Some of these cabins have been in use for well over a decade and will need work.
Up front, the Honeywell Primus 1000 digital avionics package, although more than 15 years old, remains adequate. Most panels have been upgraded with terrain and traffic-avoidance systems. One veteran Ultra pilot recommends also adding a second Flight Management System (FMS) computer (one is standard) if you plan on operating frequently at uncontrolled fields with non-precision instrument approaches, especially if those airports have limited avionics support. A second FMS is a $100,000 add-on but when you're stuck somewhere or can't reach your exact destination airport, it won't seem all that expensive.
The Ultra's straight-leg landing gear will let you know you have touched down and care must be taken not to bang the airplane onto the runway. (Cessna added softer, trailing-link main landing gear to the Ultra's successor, the Encore, and moved them closer together to make ground turning and parking easier.) I find that just about any Cessna lands better if you're able to carry a few extra knots on landing, though that's sometimes impossible because of runway length.
With the Ultra, there is another reason to carry a little extra speed when landing-ice. Eleven years ago, I was renting hangar space at my local airport. When I returned from the Christmas holidays, I noticed that my airplane had a new neighbor-the wreckage of a Citation V that had fatally crashed on approach in icing conditions a few days earlier. Ice has been a factor in several other Citation V/Ultra crashes over the years, when pilots have allowed the aircraft to get too slow during landing and/or improperly operated de-icing equipment.
Beginning with the Citation S/II in 1984, Cessna went with a new wing design that improved the airplane's high-speed performance. The Ultra and the V share that wing. The design slightly changed the Citation's stall performance and that is exacerbated when ice is on the wings. Ultra/V approach stalls in ice can be abrupt and, sometimes, unrecoverable. In 1996, the FAA issued a directive calling for higher approach speeds on the aircraft when ice is present and Cessna later reaffirmed that guidance. Bottom line: when encountering ice on approach, you land faster and suck up more runway. This is not rocket science, though, and when operated properly, the Ultra is a very safe airplane. Like all "straight wing" Citations, it can be flown single-pilot with the proper FAA endorsements.
The Ultra is an evolved design with few bugs and a deserved reputation for versatility and utility. Because of this, it holds its value better than other aircraft in its class. A 1997 Ultra that sold new for $6 million will still fetch close to $5 million. Its high resale value is a testament to the power of evolution.
How the Ultra Updated the V
Cessna announced the Model 560 Ultra in 1993 and during its five-year production run, from 1994 to 1999, the company delivered 278 of them. When new in 1994, the aircraft retailed for $5.495 million. The Ultra was an updated version of the Citation V, which Cessna manufactured from 1988 to 1993.
The main differences between the V and the Ultra concern the engines, avionics and interior. For the Ultra, Cessna went with the Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5D turbofans, which produce 145 more pounds of thrust per side and are slightly more efficient than an earlier generation of the same engine on the Citation V.
On the Ultra, the company replaced the cluttered instrument panel of the V with the sleek, large three-screen layout of the Honeywell Primus 1000. The Primus features two primary flight displays, one for each pilot position, and a multi-function display in the center of the panel.
Interior amenities in the Ultra were stepped up a few notches from those in the V. The former offers better passenger controls, higher quality leathers, a new air stair, cleaner looking interior panels and cabinetry and improved fit and finish throughout.
Cessna has made more changes to the basic design since 1999 with the Citation Encore and Encore+. Recent innovations have included the addition of better landing gear; increased fuel capacity and payload; and upgraded engines, engine controls and avionics. The current price of a new Encore+, typically equipped, is $8.4 million.