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Cessna launches Citation Columbus, its largest business jet ever
Cessna launches Citation Columbus, its largest business jet ever

With the Citation Columbus, Cessna is moving into a market segment which hitherto has been dominated by the Bombardier Challenger 605, the Gulfstream 350 and the Dassault Falcon 2000. The 850 model, as it is known internally within Cessna, has a wingspan of 24.40m and a length of 23.50m, making it the biggest aircraft and the one with the greatest range ever to have been built in the company´s 81-year history. According to Cessna, the new aircraft will be able to fly 4,000nm (7,408km) non-stop. Before the company decided to launch this programme, it studied the market closely with the aid of a 1:1 model of the cabin and cockpit and surveyed potential customers in the USA and Europe. The Large Cabin Concept (LCC), as it was known in those days, was first unveiled at the NBAA Business Aviation convention in October 2006.

The Board of Directors of the Textron Corporation, Cessna´s parent company, gave the go-ahead for the $ 780 million development of the new business jet on 23 January 2008.

The twin-engined jet will be developed from scratch and will incorporate a number of innovations. Pratt & Whitney Canada (PWC) has been chosen to supply the engines. The Canadians are launching a new PW800 family of engines specially for the Citation Columbus. The new PW810 powerplant will fall in the 10,000lb thrust class; however, the Citation Columbus will not use more than a maximum of 8,830lb. On the new jet, the PW810 will set new standards in environmental compatibility, its CO2 emissions being 35 percent below the limits set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), and its NOx emissions as much as 50% under. When it comes to noise, Pratt & Whitney Canada intends to be well below the future Chapter IV limits. “We are extremely pleased that Cessna chose Pratt & Whitney Canada,” said PWC President Alain M. Bellemare. “This contract presents us with new sales opportunities of the order of one billion dollars over the entire duration of the programme.”

Cessna plans to stick with the conventional material of aluminium. The fuselage and tail unit of the new business jet will be built in Wichita, Kansas. But unlike the other Citation fuselages, they will not be built by Cessna itself, but by Spirit AeroSystems, a company formed as a result of the sale of a Boeing factory in Wichita to a financial investor. According to a Cessna spokesperson speaking on the occasion of the unveiling of the Citation Columbus at a press conference in Washington DC on 6 February, the company has reached an agreement in principle with Spirit AeroSystems, the details of which will be disclosed later on.

Rockwell Collins has been selected to supply the cockpit electronics, in the form of the latest Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics suite. The company had disclosed preliminary details of the new system only in October. The Citation Columbus is the second aircraft type to be equipped with Pro Line Fusion.

The pilots will find themselves looking at four high-resolution colour LCD displays on which the flight-relevant information is presented. They all have a 38cm diagonal screen size, putting them among the biggest displays in a business jet cockpit. On the avionics side, the standard equipment configuration will satisfy virtually every wish and will include the following: MultiScan weather radar, Integrated Flight Information System (IFIS) which, amongst other things, presents the approach and aerodrome charts electronically, two latest-generation Flight Management Systems (FMS) with WAAS receivers to improve GPS navigation, an Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system, auto throttle for automatic adjustment of the throttle to the current flight situation and an Information Management System (IMS) that enables updating of the onboard databases on the ground via wireless transmission.

Thanks to the integrated avionics, the information from multiple sensors will be combined before being presented to the pilots on the screens. The crew will be able to plan their flight path graphically and see not only the charts but also information about airspace, weather and traffic on the screen.

A head-up display, a third FMS, a second IFIS or a weather radar with wind sheer predictions are available as optional extras.

Appearance-wise, the Citation Columbus looks rather like the Citation X, currently the fastest civil jet in the world. It will not be as fast as its little sister, but it will still have a maximum cruise speed of Mach 0.85. Even at its maximum range of 4,000nm, it will be able to fly at a brisk Mach 0.80. According to present calculations, it will not require a large airfield: 1,646m of runway will suffice at maximum payload.

The cabin will be 11.10m long and have 1.85m of headroom. The aircraft will be able to carry up to 10 passengers.

The price tag is currently about $ 27 million. Cessna´s schedule envisages that the Citation Columbus will have its maiden flight in 2011 and will attain FAA certification in 2013 after testing is complete. The first customer should be able to take delivery of its Columbus in 2014.

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