Cessna Citation X+

In 2018, Textron Aviation took what it had billed as the “world’s fastest business jet” off life support. After delivering a mere 29 copies since refreshing and stretching the Citation X and adding more thrust in 2014, the airframer discontinued production and allowed the X+ to fade away. The speed king was dead. 

A near-supersonic, Mach 0.935 top speed wasn’t the Citation X+’s only standout feature. It also boasted a new Garmin G5000 avionics glass cockpit; an updated, mood-lit, and uber-connected cabin; elliptical winglets; and more powerful Rolls-Royce engines, a tad more speed and range, and better brakes than its predecessor offered. But it could not overcome the birth defects that it had inherited from the airplane’s first generation, the original Citation X, which hit the market in 1996. Those included a narrow, stoop-over cabin replete with a 1960s-style trenched center aisle, complex hydraulics, and direct operating costs that were 25 to 33 percent higher than those of a stable of competing super-midsized aircraft—business jets that had wider, taller cabins and burned a lot less fuel.

 

By 2018, speed—the X family’s raison d’etre—had become de rigueur on a new generation of larger and more comfortable bizjets being delivered or in the pipeline from Bombardier, Dassault, Embraer, and Gulfstream. And while none of those equaled the much-vaunted Mach 0.935 of the X+, the large-cabin jets came close, with top speeds of Mach 0.90 to 0.925, while super-midsized models priced similarly to the X+ topped out at Mach 0.83 to 0.86. 

Much as Learjet discovered in the 1980s, moreover, customers were unwilling to trade ultimate speed for discomfort. And Textron did nothing to impede the X’s demise when in 2004 it introduced the Citation Sovereign—an aircraft that shared the X’s cabin, but was fitted with different engines and wings, sold for millions less, had direct hourly operating costs that were at least $1,000 lower, and offered nearly the same range (2,847 nautical miles versus 3,216). 

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So the Citation X+, posting economic numbers that were increasingly hard to defend, never found a sustainable audience. Ten of the 29 buyers were upgrading from old Citation Xs. Like the supersonic airliner Concorde and the Mach 3 plus SR-71 U.S. spy airplane, the X+ fell victim to the actuary’s knife. The X and X+ were one-trick ponies, built for speed. And the trick got old.

Not surprisingly, resale values have plummeted since Textron pulled the plug. A 2018 model year Citation X+ that sold new for $23.3 million already has depreciated to $17 million (retail), a 27 percent drop, according to the aircraft valuation service Vref. A 2015 model year X+ is trading for a mere $12 million, down 49 percent from its new list price. By any definition, this is a fire sale. But does it make sense to wade into the flames and take advantage of these prices?  

Maybe. 

The X and X+ can trim an hour or more off the time it would take to fly from Teterboro, N.J., to Van Nuys, California, on some other super-midsize aircraft. Ditto for flights between Boston and London. But for shorter hops, it’s difficult to make a compelling case for using these models. If you’re not regularly long-hauling it, owning a used X or X+ can be an expensive exercise in vanity, even accounting for the reduced capital costs due to smoldering depreciation. That said, for the Hollywood–New York set, a X+ is hard to beat for the money.

That’s especially true when you’re flying with a sparsely populated cabin. Yes, you can safely load 12 people into this tube, but you can expect it to feel crowded if you do. 

This is not to say that Textron didn’t try to make the most of the X+ cabin, which typically features a forward galley with optional kibitzer followed by two “club four” arrangements of single executive seats and an aft lav with belted potty. (A three-place divan can be substituted for two of the single seats.) The aircraft incorporates re-foamed and more ergonomic seats than its predecessor, color-adjustable LED lighting, and a wireless cabin management system. The seats are restyled with eight extra degrees of pitch, allowing passengers to lean farther back in the takeoff and landing position. 

The new side ledges are large enough for drinks and personal electronics and contain USB charging ports. The newer-generation cabin management system (CMS) in the X+ provides access to a plethora of distractions, including internet and satcom, a Blu-ray player, and control of cabin lights, temperature, and window shades. The CMS integrates the cabin electrical system, avionics, and communication through a fiber-optic backbone. VIP controls can be assigned to any seat in the cabin. A lot of these styling cues and technology features ended up on Textron’s newer and larger jets, the Latitude and Longitude. 

Nifty stuff to be sure, but none of it could overcome the fact that the cabin is just 66 inches wide and 68 inches tall (in the trenched center aisle). Granted, Textron endeavored to improve passenger comfort by stretching the fuselage on the X+, yielding a 15-inch-longer cabin that gives passengers in the forward and rear club four seat groupings more legroom and less proclivity for accidental footsie. The galley and the lav each got an additional two inches as well. But this still provided less room than the flat-floor, super-midsize cabin cross-sections in such other super-midsize models as the Dassault Falcon 2000 (92 inches wide, 74 inches tall), Gulfstream G280 (84 inches wide, 75 inches tall), Bombardier Challenger 350 (86 inches wide, 73 inches tall), and Embraer’s Legacy 500 (82 inches wide, 72 inches tall). Spending four or five hours in the X’s more confined space certainly still beats being in the center seat in row 28 on Southwest, but with another passenger sitting across the aisle, things could get a little cozy. 

Also, baggage capacity on the X+, at 104 cubic feet, is a tad niggardly compared with the competition, which posts numbers ranging from 131 to 155 cubic feet. 

But if speed is what you need, none of these things matter. The X+ climbs to 47,000 feet in just 24 minutes and is still the fastest bizjet in the sky. 

The king is dead. Long live the king. 


2015 Cessna Citation X+ at a Glance

Price: 

     New: $23.745 million

     Current: $12 million 

Crew: 2 

Passengers: 8–12 

Engines: 2 Rolls-Royce AE3007C2, 7,034 lb of thrust each 

Avionics: Garmin G5000 

Top cruising speed: Mach 0.935, 528 ktas, 717 mph 

Range: 3,460 nm* 

Service ceiling: 51,000 ft 

Takeoff distance: 5,250 ft** 

Cabin:

     Height: 5 ft, 8 in

     Width: 5 ft, 6 in 

     Length: 25 ft, 2 in

Baggage capacity: 104 cubic feet

*four passengers, NBAA IFR reserves

**at maximum takeoff weight, sea level, standard temperature

Source: Cessna 

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