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AIRCRAFT COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS - CESSNA CITATION XLS

May 2011

Category: Corporate Aircraft Comparative Analysis

Author: Mike Chase

Cessna Citation XLS

In this month’s Aircraft Comparative Analysis, we provide information on the Cessna Citation XLS. We’ll consider some of the productivity parameters - including payload, range, speed and cabin size, along with current market value. The field of study also includes Bombardier’s Learjet 45.


BRIEF HISTORY
The Citation brand encompasses six distinct families of aircraft. The Excel, the Citation XLS, and the Citation XLS+ comprise one of these families. In total 330 Citation XLS aircraft were built from 2003 to 2008. As the updated version of the Citation Excel it travels faster and further than its predecessor.

The XLS can climb to a maximum flight level of 45,000 feet with a normal climb rate of 3,500 (fpm) compared to the Excel 3,090 (fpm). The XLS out-performs many competing aircraft due largely to its two Pratt & Whitney PW545B engines. They are designed with a high-pressure core to increase thrust to 3,991 pounds apiece (4.9 percent more thrust than the engines used in the Citation Excel). Meantime, Honeywell’s Primus 1000 avionics suite is utilized on the flight deck.

MARKET SHARE
Chart A represents the in-operation aircraft Market Share as of February 2011 for the Citation XLS (47%) and the Learjet 45 (53%). There are currently 698 total aircraft in operation for these two models.

PAYLOAD AND RANGE
The data contained in Table A is published in the B&CA, May 2010 issue, but is also sourced from Conklin & de Decker. As we have mentioned in past articles, a potential operator should focus on payload capability as a key factor. The Citation XLS ‘Available payload with Maximum Fuel’ at 860 pounds is greater than the Learjet 45 at 798 pounds of payload capability.

CABIN VOLUME
In addition, the cabin volume of the Citation XLS, at 461 cubic feet is 12.4 percent larger than the Learjet 45 aircraft at 410 cubic feet, as shown in Chart B (information from Conklin & de Decker).

POWERPLANT DETAILS
As mentioned previously, the Citation XLS is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW545B engines each offering a thrust rating of 3,911 pounds. The Learjet 45 is powered by two Honeywell TFE 731-20AR engines with a thrust rating of 3,500 pounds.

COST PER MILE COMPARISONS
Using data published in the May 2010 B&CA Planning and Purchasing Handbook and the August 2010 B&CA Operations Planning Guide we will compare these aircraft. The nationwide average Jet A fuel cost used from the August 2010 edition was $4.90 per gallon at press time, so for the sake of comparison we’ll chart the numbers as published.

Note: Fuel price used from this source does not represent an average price for the year.

Chart C details ‘Cost per Mile’, and compares the Citation XLS to the Learjet 45 factoring direct costs, and with each aircraft flying a 1,000nm mission with 800 pounds (four passengers) payload. The Citation XLS cost at $3.82 per nautical mile is greater by $0.62 per mile than the Learjet 45 at $3.20.

TOTAL VARIABLE COST COMPARISONS
The “Variable Cost”, illustrated in Chart D, is defined as the cost of Fuel Expense, Maintenance Labor Expense, Scheduled Parts Expense and Miscellaneous trip expense. The hourly variable cost for the Citation XLS at $2,059 has a 5.4% higher variable cost per hour compared to the Learjet 45 at $1,954.

PRODUCTIVITY COMPARISONS
The points in Chart E center on the same pair of business jets. Pricing used in the vertical axis is as published in the B&CA 2010 Purchase Planning Handbook. The productivity index requires further discussion in that the factors used can be somewhat arbitrary Productivity can be defined (and it is here) as the multiple of three factors.

1. Range with full payload and available fuel;
2. The long-range cruise speed flown to achieve that range;
3. The cabin volume available for passengers and amenities.

The result is a very large number, so for the purpose of charting, each result is divided by one billion. The examples plotted are for the aircraft in this study, but factor the Excel too. A computed curve fit on this plot would not be very tight, but when all business jets are considered the “r” squared factor would equal a number above 0.9. Others may choose different parameters, but serious business jet buyers are usually impressed with price, range, speed, and cabin size.

After consideration of the Price, Range, Speed and Cabin Size, we can conclude that the Citation XLS aircraft, as shown in the productivity index Chart E, is highly productive - although that comes at a price, with the Learjet 45 retailing for around $1.1m less for a comparable 2006 model, see Table B.

The average speed, cabin volume, and maximum payload values from Conklin and De Decker and B&CA magazine are also shown in Table B for the Citation XLS and Learjet 45. Two new fields of comparison are displayed in Table B – Maximum Flight Ceiling and Normal Climb rate. While the maximum ceiling for the XLS at 45,000 feet is lower than the Learjet 45 at 51,000 feet, the normal climb rate at 3,500 (fpm) is much greater than the Learjet at 2,180 (fpm).

The last two columns of information show the number of aircraft in-operation, and the percentage “For Sale” from JETNET. Both aircraft fall into our ‘Seller’s Market’ category with both models having less than 10% of their respective fleets for sale.

AIRPORT PERFORMANCE
The airport performance illustrated in Table C includes airport landing and balanced field length distances. The Citation XLS has a short 3,560 foot Take-Off Field Length (TOFL), with a landing distance of 4,738 feet.

LOCATION BY CONTINENT
Table D shows the location by continent for the Wholly-Owned Citation XLS business jet. North America has the majority with 51.7% of the fleet followed by Europe at 31.6%. Currently, seven Citation XLS aircraft are in shared-, and 88 are in fractional-ownership arrangements.

SUMMARY
Within the preceding paragraphs we have touched upon several of the key attributes that business jet operators value. However, there are often other qualities such as service and support that factor in a buying decision, but are beyond the scope of this article.

The Citation XLS business jet fares well against its competition - so those operators in the market should find the preceding comparison of value. Our expectations are that the Citation XLS business jet will continue to do very well in the pre-owned market for the foreseeable future.

For more information: Michael Chase is president of Chase & Associates, and can be contacted at 1628 Snowmass Place, Lewisville, TX 75077; Tel: 214-226-9882; Web:
www.mdchase.com

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