Cessna Citation Mustang
After years of speculation and dismal delivery numbers, Cessna has finally put the entry-level 340-knot, 1,150-nautical-mile-range, six-seat Citation Mustang jet out to pasture. In May, the company announced that the last Mustang had rolled off the assembly line in Independence, Kansas after a production run of 475 aircraft over the last 12 years.
Certainly, the model had an auspicious start. As other very light jet manufacturers struggled to finish development and get to market, Cessna smoothly shepherded the Mustang through the process from announcement in 2003 to certification in 2006; and by 2009 the company was delivering an astonishing 125 aircraft per year.
But that number tapered off precipitously in ensuing years, with just 75 delivered since 2012, including a mere 10 last year and only two in the first quarter of this year. At Textron Aviation in Wichita, where each model must sink or swim on its own profitability, they really do shoot horses. And with the low-margin $3.2 million Mustang, there just wasn’t enough “get” left in the pony to justify the continued cost of feed.
The decision to stop Mustang production had apparently been in the works for some time. Unlike its competitors, most notably Embraer and Eclipse, Cessna had eschewed notable upgrades for the Mustang.
The latest version of Embraer’s competing Phenom 100, the $4.5 million EV, features touchscreen avionics, engines with more thrust that deliver better short-runway performance and payload, and an upgraded interior. And Eclipse is working on a $3.6 million version, code-named “Canada,” that promises a range of 1,400 nautical miles and touchscreen avionics.
Meanwhile, the most significant upgrade for the Mustang came along back in 2011 with the (then) $75,000 “High Sierra” option. It included a two-tone exterior paint job, a choice of three new interior finishes with upgraded leathers and carpets and, in the cockpit, electronic charts and synthetic vision. The package also featured locking fuel caps and two-year enrollment in Cessna’s ProTech and ProParts maintenance programs. Cessna’s real solution for customers who want more—be it speed, range, payload, or better avionics—is to move them up to a more expensive airplane, such as the $4.6 million Citation M2, which cruises at 400 knots, has a range of 1,300 nautical miles, and features the latest touchscreen avionics.
Apparently the strategy is working: Since deliveries of the M2 began in 2013, more than 150 have been sold, even in this notoriously soft light jet market, while Mustang sales have dropped off a cliff.
But let’s not be quick about shipping the Mustang off to the aviation glue factory. The yardstick to assess this airplane shouldn’t be other jets, but rather turboprops. Because if you match up used Mustangs against used T-props like Piper Meridians and TBM singles and the twin-engine King Air 90 series, you’ll find that in many cases and across many mission profiles the Mustangs offer a comfortable and cost-effective alternative.
According to the online pricing service Vref, a 2010 Mustang retails for an average of $1.85 million, cheaper than either year of the TBM or King Air 90, but it is faster (20 or 65 knots faster, respectively). It also flies higher than those other models over rotten weather (41,000 feet), has a more comfortable cabin than the TBM, and offers only slightly less range than the King Air. In addition, the twinjet Mustang burns only about nine gallons of fuel per hour more at cruise power than the single-engine TBM.
Now, granted, you can’t stuff it to the roof and take off the way you can in the King Air; with full fuel, available payload is just 600 pounds. However, most Mustang operators fly average missions of just over an hour, and with a single pilot up front there’s plenty of margin for two to three passengers in back and a fair amount of gear. Short-field performance is excellent and a 3,500-foot-long runway (sea level) is more than ample under most conditions.
The Mustang’s cabin is nearly 10 feet long and more than four and a half feet wide with a trenched center aisle that yields 54 inches of headroom. The oval windows have pleated manual shades and hark back to Cessna’s successful line of piston twin 300 and 400 series cabin-class airplanes. They provide ample natural light that is supplemented by LEDs.
The passenger seats, while small, make extensive use of sculpted foam to maximize lumbar support. Headrests are adjustable. The outer armrests on the rear-facing single seats fold up and out of the way while the two-seat rear bench incorporates a center console with fold-down center armrest, storage drawer and compartment, cup holders, and a power outlet. The rear-facing seats have limited recline—about 25 degrees. Tasteful automotive-style graphics substitute for actual veneer finishes. The subtly curved side ledges feature cup holders and foldout tables (one on each side). The four main passenger seats are aft of the cabin door.
Across from the entry door you’ll find small beverage and storage drawers and the cabinet that houses the chemical, non-flushing toilet. With the lid closed, the toilet cabinet makes a good storage ledge for small briefcases. Baggage space is generous: 63 cubic feet in the nose, tail cone, and interior storage areas for a theoretical total capacity of 718 pounds.
Like all the Cessna Citation CJs and the M2, the Mustang is certified for single-pilot operation. The avionics are modern glass panel, but are a variation of the now-ancient but upgradable Garmin 1000 system that the company has been flying since 2005, beginning with its piston airplanes. While the system on the prop airplanes features two screens, the one on the Mustang has three: one primary flight display for each pilot plus a multifunction display that shows maps, weather, engine data and systems, traffic and terrain, and checklists.
Aside from the Garmin panel, the Mustang’s Pratt & Whitney Canada engines are the aircraft’s most significant new technology. (Variants of the engine power competing VLJs from Eclipse and Embraer.) The engines, which Pratt started developing in the late 1990s, incorporate a host of proprietary technologies that enable them to be smaller yet deliver impressive thrust and good fuel economy. Cessna claims that on a typical 500-nautical-mile trip, the Mustang will burn a miserly 95 gallons of fuel per hour. Near the aircraft’s maximum operating altitude of 41,000 feet, fuel burns as low as 60 gallons per hour have been observed.
Besides being used for personal and executive transport, the Mustang has been successfully employed as an air ambulance and as a primary jet trainer for civil and airline flight schools, a clientele that puts its rugged, mostly metal construction and Cessna’s product support to the test. The aircraft’s range and operating economics make it particularly popular with European air-taxi operators.
Even though the Mustang has been discontinued, Textron Aviation reaffirmed its commitment to supporting it in May. That support continues to receive respectable marks from customers as reflected in the annual product support survey of our sister publication, Aviation International News, and should help used Mustangs retain their value.
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