Flying the Citation M2
A Great First Impression
by John Hayes
Not long ago, I spent two days flying the M2 and I gained some perspective on the airplane both from the back seats and from the front left seat. We flew out of Boulder City, NV for a photo mission with Jessica Ambats. Then we made a short hop down to Sedona for some more photos. After that, I got to take the front left seat for a flight to Van Nuys to drop off Jessica and a second leg back to Boulder City. It was a great opportunity to sample the new airplane from the perspective of a long-time Mustang pilot.
I’ll start out by saying that all you guys who have a M2 on order are going to be delighted with what you will find in your new airplane. The interior fit and finish is first class. Compared to the Mustang, it is a very noticeable step-up. The seats are very comfortable and the look is modern and bright. My only observation is that Cessna might want to think about ways to allow the rear seats to slide apart a bit because the legroom is a bit tight with two tall folks sitting across from each other. It’s the same as the CJ1+, and it’s not bad but it could be better.
Williams claims that the FJ44 1AP-21 engines are the quietest engine on the market and it shows in back. I found the ride to be very quiet and indeed there is less of the high pitch whine coming from the Pratt engines in the Mustang. The windows and the cabin are larger than in the Mustang and that adds to a feeling of spaciousness. I pulled up the side tables and found them to be quite sturdy and very useable. There is a fair amount of room in the rear lav area for bags and stuff you might want to access in flight. I didn’t get to fly in the dark but we did turn on all of the cabin lights and my guess is that it will be wonderful lighting at night. The new Clarity entertainment system looks nice, but on our short flight, I didn’t get to play with it.
The engines are basically the same medium bypass engines used in the CJ1+ with new FADEC software that enables better performance at altitude. For my flight out of Sedona to Van Nuys, we did a direct climb from 4,800 feet MSL up to FL400 that took only 20:30 at a little over mid-weight. That is definitely a way better climb rate than the Mustang! The initial climb starts at 220 kias and transitions to 0.55M at about FL300, which is automatic on the GFC 700 AP (unlike the Mustang where you have to press the speed button at FL278.) Once at altitude, ISA was about -3 and we saw speeds that ranged from 390-398 ktas with a fuel flow of 730 lbs/hr. The M2 will achieve best speed between ISA +3 to +5 in the low-mid 30’s so I was very impressed by the performance up at FL400. Down at FL340, we saw 407 ktas (M0.70) while drinking about 950 lbs/hr at ISA +3. It basically cruises right up against the bottom of the barber pole. A couple of times, I had to pull the power back a bit to keep it below Vmo (we hit 416 ktas for a while.) Clearly, the airplane reaches its target speed of 400 kts without any trouble.
Cockpit and Avionics
First, I think that the transition for any Mustang pilot into the M2 will be trivial. The switchology is very similar and the panel layout is “almost” as clean as in the Mustang. I say “almost” only because the grouping of colored switches isn’t quite as clean as on the Mustang panel and some of the switches are hidden behind the yoke/control column. Still after two hours, I was very comfortable with the layout and the avionics. A little proficiency with the GTN 750s will go a long way with the G3000. Some of the little things that I really liked in the G3000 were:
1) There is now a feature for a standby baro-setting. When you are inbound and you get ATIS, you just dial in the new setting. Upon passing FL180, you just push the baro-knob to activate the new value. It’s so obvious that this is the way it should have been done in the first place!
2) The new radar overlay is freaking fantastic! We have been asking for this one from Garmin for the G1000 since 2009 and your first experience with the G3000 will show you why. Overlay the radar display on the terrain, adjust the tilt and you can see exactly which hills you are painting. Ground returns are a complete mystery on a G1000, but you can easily separate ground returns from weather on the G3000. You will be stunned at how useful this feature is with respect to on-board radar. There are a number of other cool new features on the GWX 70 system but this is the one that really impressed me. Overall, this looks like a really superb system. My guess is that more pilots will be inclined to look more often at onboard data rather than NEXRAD with this system.
3) Cessna heard our comments about the Mustang and included XM in the cockpit as well as a full six-place intercom throughout the cabin. Way to go! You can set up XM music to mute for the Com or the Com+intercom. If you just mute for the Com, you can still have conversation with your right-seater without muting. I like that feature!4) In general, the G3000 menu system is quite intuitive and it will be a pretty easy transition for any G1000 user. My only criticism is that some of the functions require too many button pushes to make things happen. All of the environmental systems are a layer or two down and you need this stuff every time you start up or shut down so my initial impression was that this was a bit of a pain to fool with every time. It’s not bad; but I missed the physical switches on the panel. There are also a number of items that require confirmation by pushing an “accept” button. Some of these are easily missed because this goes a bit against the way Garmin usually works. It is easy to set up something, press enter, change screens and then have to do it again because you forgot to press “accept.” I understand that Cessna is still working through some of this stuff to clean up some of the details so hopefully, most of these “nits” will disappear over time.
5) The new pre-flight “rotary” test is now a very simple menu list. It is super easy and nicely implemented. Our Cessna pilots explained that a few of the items take too long for the test and Cessna is working to speed up the flow a bit on some of this stuff. I didn’t think that it was bad the way it is so any improvements will be icing on the cake.
6) FLC mode is now set up with preprogrammed speeds depending on where you are. In the terminal area, FLC=200 kts, climbing outside the terminal area=220 kts, decent below 10k = 250 kts, above FL300 (approx) = 0.55M. This is really nice–particularly for SP operators.
7) The engine parameters are on round dials and each engine is grouped for each side. It is a little different than the display on the Mustang, but it’s very easy to check parameters for each engine at a glance. Some of the stuff, like pressurization is completely numeric but it works just fine. Any Mustang pilot will get used to it very quickly.
8) Pressurization is now done completely from the flight plan. You don’t set anything – zero, nada, zilch. Enter your flight plan and you are done…it is completely automatic. Just remember that if you divert in an emergency, you’ve got to enter where you are going before you get on the ground so that the controller can keep up. Only an unpressurized airplane is simpler.
In flight, the handling of the M2 is still CJ1+. If you’ve only flown a Mustang, the M2 will feel a bit bigger and a bit heavier, but it won’t be enough to matter much. It takes off, flies, handles, and lands pretty much like a Citation. The only minor differences from the Mustang are that at altitude, it doesn’t cruise at such a high angle of attack (more power does wonders) and during the flair, the attitude is a just a bit flatter. During take off, it wants to be a bit more actively rotated into takeoff attitude. I’ve flown every CJ but the 4 and they all feel similar.
Winglets…they look cool don’t they? Well, that’s all they do; besides adding 6 lbs. Still the ramp appeal is worth it and they make the M2 very distinctive.
Finally, I’ll pass on my understanding of the new windshield. I was told that the old-style bleed air de-iced windshield will be installed for about the first 25 airplanes. All of these airplanes have everything ready to go for the new windshields when they become available. These airplanes still have the alcohol system installed and I don’t know if that system will stay as a backup with the future airplanes or not. Clearly, Cessna will start delivering the new system ASAP so we’ll just have to see how long it takes.
I think that Cessna has almost perfectly nailed the price-performance equation and there’s almost no doubt that the M2 will do well against the competition. I love my Mustang but heck, it’s’ so cool that I might just have to buy one someday!