M2 Field Report
Cessna’s newest light jet combines the best of the 525 series with new cockpit ergonomics and the much-heralded G3000 avionics suite.
by Neil Singer
I’ve spent the better part of January and early February training two new owners of one of the first few Citation M2s delivered. In the past several weeks we’ve had the opportunity to put the plane through its paces during dense training flights of multiple approaches and landings, as well as “A -o-B” trips more representative of normal use.
Overall, I’m extremely impressed with the aircraft. Cessna has taken the best of the existing CJ1+ airframe and systems, and given it a modern feel. Sitting in the cockpit, the aircraft immediately feels more like a Mustang or CJ4 rather than a CJ1+. The pre-CJ4 525’s always feel, to me, a little “slapped together” in the cockpit, with some autopilot controls up here, some down there, some light switches over here, or some hidden out of sight down there. The M2, in contrast, has a cockpit that was well thought out.
For one, the switch count has been reduced. Several systems have been automated to the point that no switches are required. The navigation lights, for example, turn on automatically as power is applied. If desired, this and other automatic features can be disabled via the touch controllers. However, there’s typically no need to do so, so why clutter the cockpit with one more switch?
In addition, Cessna has grouped switches and controls in a more logical way than was found in earlier 525’s. For example, just prior to takeoff, the last pilot actions are to turn on pitot-static heat, landing lights, and strobes. In older 525’s these switches were widely spread out in the cockpit; in the M2 they are next to each other in a small group set apart from other switches.
I do think Cessna has gone overboard with at least one switch removal. The air conditioning system is now completely controlled by the touch controllers. This decision is somewhat puzzling, as the system must be turned on after every engine start and shut down before power off. Simply to get to the screen for these tasks takes three taps of the touch controller. Physical switches here would have been more ergonomic.
Certification issues may have prevented some other changes I’d like to see in the cockpit. The M2 retains the CJ-CJ3’s legacy of only having one go-around switch on the left throttle alone. I’m somewhat surprised that a second couldn’t have been added to make the M2 more like the Mustang and CJ4. Likewise, it would have been great to relocate the speedbrake switch up the throttle, where it’s found in the Mustang. When practicing aborted takeoffs, I find pilots fumble for the 525’s speedbrake switch at times. It’s not an issue with the Mustang.
On the subject of speed brakes, the 525’s ground flap/speed brake combination on landing remains stellar as always. The Northeast has experienced a stormy January; when it’s not snowing we’ve had freezing rain and fog. Many of our flights have occurred a day or two after a 4-18 inch snow. As a result, we’ve been landing on more than our share of patchy, snow-covered runways.
The M2 has handled these conditions beautifully. Even as the new owners are getting the hang of hold VREF and not letting the plane float, we’re regularly stopping 3,000 feet from the threshold, or about 2,000 feet of ground roll. One of our first flights was to Morristown, NJ, where the airport was closed just a few minutes after we landed due to decreasing braking action. Rain has just switched to freezing drizzle, and within an hour of our landing the BA was downgraded to nil. We experienced BA in the fair-poor range. Nevertheless, we used less than 3,500 feet of ground roll to stop the M2, leaving 2,000 feet to spare. I can’t overstate how impressed I am with the plane’s runway performance so far. I think it represents a massive advantage over some competing airframes.The G3000 represents the most visible improvement to the plane, and I fully agree with the other initial reports on CJP of what a dream of a platform it is. Features such as VNAV climbs with automatic speed profiles (e.g. 200 KIAS under 3,000 feet, 220 KIAS above), ghost ILS needles, and programmable holds were all advantages that the Collins Pro Line held over the G1000 for years. Now they are implemented beautifully in the G3000.
The split-screen ability of the MFD and PFDs is truly a big leap forward in situational awareness. There is no longer a need to lose the NEXRAD when pulling up a chart, or choose between radar and NEXRAD on the MFD. If we include the touch controller and the small inset flight plan pane on the PFD’s, the pilots can configure a total of eight panes of information. The M2 is truly the first plane I’ve flown that has more ability to display information than I can come up with information to display. This is the way things should be in the cockpit, rather than the other way around.
I especially like the small PFD controllers mounted on the glare shield. Almost nothing they perform can’t also be accomplished via the touch controllers, but by having a several dedicated buttons for major tasks, common actions such as proceeding direct to a flight plan fix, activating vectors to final, or zooming the PFD’s map in or out can be done with much less heads-down time.
There are a few frustrating choices that were made in Kansas in programming the G3000. Interestingly, many of them have to do with VHF navigation. The G3000 has completely done away with the DME box that could be pulled up on the G1000. Many departures specify a turn at “X” DME, often from a localizer. I’ve always liked to back up the FMS with raw DME information. This inability to select a standalone DME display had another effect: when the PFD is displaying green needles, on an ILS approach, for example, DME information is only displayed if it is coming from the NAV receiver (1 or 2) displayed.
As the standard M2 configuration is only one DME box, this means that during an ILS approach the right PFD will typically not have any DME information displayed. There are workarounds, but they are either somewhat cumbersome (holding the DME source), or defeat redundancy (having both PFDs display same NAV source during the approach). A selectable DME box would solve the problem. Other minor VHF nav irritations: selected bearing pointers are not pervasive through power cycles, and tuning NAV radios is cumbersome, requiring several touch controller inputs.
A final feature I’ve found to be less-than-desirable: at times the VNAV defaults to “climb” mode when an altitude constraint is entered, even if the entered altitude is well under current altitude. At best this requires a few touchscreen pushes to fix. However, the first time it occurred, it caused quite a bit of cockpit confusion. It would seem logic could be programmed into the system to default to a descent computation when entering an altitude under aircraft pressure or GPS altitude.
At the end of the day, these minor complaints serve to illustrate that the M2 is a great plane. Without drastic changes to the CE-525 airframe, Cessna has created a plane that feels brand new and modern. Superb runway performance, a hot wing anti-ice system, and the G3000 give the plane a leg up against other aircraft in the same segment.