Flying High at 50! CJP Marks the Citation’s Golden Anniversary

by “Flight Levels” Editor Rob Finfrock

As you may know, September 9, 2021 will mark the 50th anniversary of FAA type-certification for the Cessna Model 500 – better known as the first Citation jet aircraft, which Aviation International News recently noted “fundamentally changed [Cessna] from primarily a general aviation manufacturer to a business aviation one.”

CJP Vintage Cessna Citation Logo

In celebration of this momentous event, each 2021 edition of “Flight Levels” will spotlight a different Citation model series, based on information from multiple resources including CJP’s own Russ Meyer Citation Library. Enjoy!

Part One: The Model 500 – 560

In 1968, Cessna Aircraft Company began development of an aircraft that would ultimately revolutionize the light business jet industry: an eight-place, turbofan-powered aircraft that would compete with light-to-medium twin turboprop aircraft, rather than much larger, heavier and thirstier corporate jets.

The clean-sheet design would be aimed at civilian operators and would be suitable for operations from shorter airfields. First flight of the prototype “FanJet 500″ aircraft took place on September 15, 1969, with the production model Citation 500 debuting in 1971.

Textron Aviation Photo

Textron Aviation Photo


The first major upgrade to the original Model 500 came in 1976, with the Model 501 bringing thrust reversers, a 38″ wingspan extension and higher operating weights. Perhaps the most noteworthy development, however – particularly for CJP members – came with the 1977 introduction of the single-pilot certified Citation I/SP that made the concept of an owner-flown jet a reality.

The following year, Cessna introduced a stretched variant called the Model 550, also known (appropriately enough) as the Citation II, which offering seating for up to 10. The Model 551 Citation II/SP, approved for single pilot operations, offered a direct competitor to turboprop-equipped corporate aircraft.

CJP - Flying Magazine Cover January 1985 Citation SIIInitially intended to replace the Citation II and Citation II/SP, the Model S550 Citation S/II offered seating for 11, with a redesigned wing developed for the larger Citation III and more powerful engines to enable improved takeoff, climb, and cruise performance. Introduced in 1984, the Citation S/II (shown at left on the cover of my first-ever copy of “FLYING” magazine that I received as a Christmas gift, and still own today – RF) was also the first Citation to be equipped with a TKS “weeping wing” anti-icing system.

The longest variant of the basic Citation II platform came with the 1987 Model 560 Citation V, offering additional cabin space. A joint effort between Cessna and NASA resulted in the slipperiest-ever straight-wing Citation, providing impressive speed and range as well as improved takeoff and landing performance, better suited for operation from smaller runways than earlier aircraft.

Cessna built upon the Model 560 platform with the 1994 Citation Ultra, which also introduced the Honeywell Primus 1000 EFIS glass cockpit to the C560 line and more powerful JT15D-5A turbofan engines, enabling takeoffs in as little as 3,200′ even when fully loaded with passengers and fuel.

In 1998, the Citation Encore offered a faster, more efficient and even more capable successor to the Ultra, with more powerful and efficient PW535A turbofans offsetting a reduced fuel load with greater efficiency and range, while also offering improved performance from “hot and high” runways.

CJP Citation 560 Encore

The lineage built upon the foundation of the official Model 500 culminated with the 2007 Citation Encore+ that improved upon its highly successful predecessors with full authority digital engine control (FADEC) of its enhanced PW535B engines and the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite.

Next time, we’ll spotlight the Citation’s move into the midsize segment.