Cessna Citation VII
Virtually every category of aircraft has an entrant that does nothing particularly well. It’s not a worst in class, it’s not a best in class. It’s just…OK. And so it is with the Cessna Citation VII. Produced starting in 1991—largely in response to complaints from Citation III owners who wanted this or that fixed or improved—the VII lacks the durability of a Hawker 800XP and the stylishness and economy of a Learjet 60. You do get more speed (460 knots) and baggage room (54 cubic feet) than with the Hawker and a bigger cabin (438 cubic feet) than the Learjet offers, but you also get less range than either of those competitors delivers.
Perhaps partly for that reason, customers yawned, and Cessna built only 113 over eight years. That compares with 277 of the Hawkers and nearly 200 of the Learjets over the same period. The aircraft valuation publication Vref gives the Hawker and Learjet “B” ratings for demand. The VII receives a “CCC.” And with good reason.
The Citation III was Cessna’s 1983 answer to criticism that it built “slowtations”—jets that flew only marginally faster than turboprops. The III featured a super-critical wing and a respectable top speed of 472 knots. Refinements of the design should have found their way onto the VII; instead, they leapfrogged onto the Mach 0.92 Citation X, which for some time was the world’s fastest bizjet. So while fractional-ownership providers discovered that their Hawkers could take a beating, Citation VIIs didn’t fare as well, and the pilot-lounge snickering started about their need for frequent maintenance.
At the beginning of its production run, between 1991 and 1995, the VII was built in tandem with the lower-cost Citation VI. That bargain-basement version sold only 39 copies in four years, and production soon folded. The VII soldiered on until 2000 when Cessna replaced it with the infinitely better Citation Sovereign. The VII’s chief assets were its new Garrett (now Honeywell) TFE731-4R-2S engines (4,080 pounds of thrust each), which gave it superior high/hot performance, allowing climbs to 37,000 feet in 18 minutes; the option of the ever-important externally serviceable lavatory; and trailing link landing gear to smooth out any ham-handed landings. The VII also offered noticeably better cabin soundproofing than the Citation III.
You can accommodate eight passengers, or nine if you use the belted lav. An optional side-facing two-place divan can be installed opposite the entry door; behind it go six individual seats and then the lavatory.
The space from the entryway up through the center of the club-four grouping is serviced by a trenched center aisle that disappears into a step up over the wing box as it intrudes into the cabin to the last two individual seats and then disappears again during the step down into the lavatory. This is clearly the cabin’s worst and most annoying feature. It significantly diminishes headroom and legroom for the last two single seats. Why Cessna didn’t join the wing lower beneath the fuselage into an aerodynamic fairing escapes me—especially when you consider that the company was already doing this at the time on the Citation X and had plans to do it on the Citation Sovereign.
As is, traversing the center aisle at the rear of the cabin is awkward if not marginally dangerous. The inconvenience of the split aisle is mitigated on this and other Cessna designs of the era by the fact that most of the airplanes fly with some empty seats. On the VII, payload with full fuel is 1,620 pounds—basically the flight crew and four heavily packed passengers.
The VII, like most Cessnas of the era, came with lots of a la carte options. One you want to make sure you have is the auxiliary power unit or APU, good for heating or cooling the cabin with the engines off. Replacing the forward two-place divan with a closet can add 20 cubic feet of baggage space inside the cabin.
A good maintenance, repair, and overhaul shop can use cabin color and fabric matching and lighting to minimize the aesthetic challenges that factory-fresh models presented. However, because of the airplane’s low price point, customers are reticent to spend lavishly on refurbishment, says Duncan Aviation completion sales representative Suzanne Hawes. Citation VII owners typically shy away from big-ticket upgrades like adding closets, extending galleys, retrofitting LED lighting, or installing acoustic soundproofing blankets, Hawes notes. Rather, they focus on a traditional rerag, refoaming and recovering the seats along with replacing carpet and sidewall coverings and occasionally adding new veneer on the cabinets. One big exception is Wi-Fi, Hawes says, with several recent VII customers opting to install Gogo Biz Internet.
The VII came with a glass-panel cockpit that was considered modern for its day, a five-screen electronic-flight-information system linked to Honeywell’s digital SPZ-8000 autopilot system. Cessna also offered an optional flight-management system.
Most Citation VII cockpits have been modernized over the years. Universal Avionics touts its InSight integrated flight deck for retrofit on the aircraft. The system shaves 118 pounds from legacy avionics and includes soon-to-be-mandated features such as ADS-B out (automatic dependent surveillance–broadcast out) and LPV (localizer performance with vertical guidance), which enables precision landings in low visibility.
InSight also provides electronic charts, a synthetic vision system, and an optional TAWS (terrain awareness and warning system). It’s a good, cost-effective way of complying with the latest avionics mandates without breaking the bank with totally new equipment.
Reragging the interior, adding Internet, repainting, and installing the Universal system can push the cost of a refurb into the high six figures.
As you may have guessed by now, the Citation VII’s failure to rank best in class means that one in good condition can be had for several hundred thousand dollars less than a comparable aircraft of a competing brand. From that standpoint, a Citation VII is a good value.
Industry veteran Mark Huber has reviewed aircraft for BJT since 2005.