Flying|December 2021
October 16, 2006, was my first day as manager of communications at Cessna Aircraft Co. It happened to be media day at the National Business Aircraft Association’s annual Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition, and it was my first time at this highly sophisticated show.

Cessna’s booth was extravagant, with massive TV screens showing video clips of Citation jets flying in front of beautiful backgrounds, highlighted by dramatic music. Then-president and CEO Jack Pelton announced three new airplanes that day, so it was a busy day for the communications team to say the least. One of the airplanes Cessna announced was the Citation CJ4.

With seats for up to 11 people, the Citation CJ4 Gen2 is the largest 525-series jet built to date. The all-metal twinjet shares many features with its siblings, including the external size of the metal tube and Williams FJ-44 turbofan engines. “The CJ4 offers the strongest performance and payload balance yet in the CJ series, with more standard features and passenger comforts than ever before,” Pelton said. While this was the official announcement of the CJ4, Cessna had already accepted 70 orders.

In February of this year—15 years after Pelton announced the CJ4—Textron Aviation certificated the CJ4 Gen2. Cessna, which became a business segment of Textron in 1992, has previously used a simple “plus” for its upgrades. But Jimmy Beeson, technical marketing manager at Textron Aviation, said Gen2 is a new, standardized way to “demonstrate to our customer base that we are listening to their feedback and continue to invest in our legacy products.” And as such, the CJ4 Gen2 delivers.

525 Legacy

The Citation CJ4 Gen2 was born into a storied legacy of airplanes coming out of Cessna’s factories in Wichita and Independence, Kansas. The company’s nearly 94-year history, spearheaded by Clyde Cessna, began with decades of extreme success in the single-engine- and multiengine-piston markets, building thousands of training aircraft for civilian and military pilots as well as owner-flown products.

Cessna Aircraft Co. started dabbling in jets in the mid-1950s, and its first bizjet offering was the Fanjet 500, which later became the Citation, named after a thoroughbred racehorse. It was announced in 1968 and achieved FAA certification in 1971. The airplane became an instant success—and Cessna delivered 52 Citation 500s in 1972. Following a long list of successful Citation models, Cessna’s Citation X design team won the Robert J. Collier Trophy in 1996 for developing the first business jet to notch a cruise speed of Mach 0.92.

Until 1989, all Citations were certified to be flown by two pilots. But that year, Cessna announced the Citation- Jet—later “CJ” for short—to provide options for owners who wanted to fly solo. It developed into a series of CJs under the same single-pilot type certificate, the coveted 525 type. Today, Textron Aviation’s 525-series models in production include the CJ3+, CJ4 Gen2 and M2, a derivative of the CJ1. The initial type-rating training takes about 16 days of ground and flight sessions. While no new type rating is required to swap from one to another, pilots need to go through approximately five days of differences training when moving between models.

Exceptional Utility

With a range that spans the country and speed that gets you there fast, the CJ4 is considered the flagship of the 525 series. Two FJ44-4A fanjets—each producing 3,621 pounds of thrust—propel the jet as high as 45,000 feet and as fast as 451 kias. With a full-fuel payload of 1,122 pounds and a takeoff-field length of 3,410 feet, it is a highly capable machine.

Using long-range cruise power, the CJ4 Gen2 can go up to 2,140 nm, according to the company. That doesn’t quite get you from Los Angeles to New York, but you can go from LA to Atlanta, from San Diego to Orlando, or from New York to Phoenix without having to stop. From Denver—where I conducted the flight test for this report—we could have reached as far south as Costa Rica and as far north as the southern tip of Alaska.

But the CJ4 Gen2 also shows great utility for shorter trips. The owner of the aircraft I flew for the flight test is the president and CEO of ADS—a company that provides disaster-response services, such as temporary housing and associated facilities—and he took delivery this summer of his new CJ4 Gen2. While the owner doesn’t fly the airplane up front, he has followed the classic CJ ownership track. He started flying in a CJ1 in 2017. He soon upgraded to a CJ2+ and, this year, decided to go for a brand-new CJ4 Gen2. “What happened is that we needed to go further faster,” he said.

“Our work is never planned because that’s what the word ‘disaster’ means,” he continued. After owning the CJ4 Gen2 for three months, he had put 160 hours on the airplane. A few days before our interview, he conducted five meetings in one day in five states: Florida, Virginia, Indiana, Tennessee and Texas. There are times when he gets a contract to set up a 5,000-man camp in 72 hours. “The plane is critical, or the jobs fall behind,” and that can cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It’s not just the efficiency of travel that has helped the owner realize the return on investment. “We have had Wi-Fi in the last two planes, so literally it looks like a mini office in the back of the plane,” he said. “I can be back on the computer before the plane even takes off.”

Exploring the CJ4 Gen2

On a crisp, clear fall morning, I mounted the new and improved airstairs of the CJ4 Gen2 at Centennial Airport (KAPA) in the southern part of the Denver metropolitan area. Many CJ operators carry a step stool to get to the first step of the airstair. The CJ4 Gen2 adds a step on the bottom and a handrail that folds out from the door frame. These two additions make it really easy to step into the cabin. Sadly, it was too bright to appreciate the new lights on the stairs and the cool effect from the logo light that would have lit up the tarmac under the first step.

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