Shopping Older Cessna Citations? Do Your Homework!

If you’re considering buying a pre-owned private jet manufactured in the 20th century, you’ll need to undertake a thorough investigation prior to purchase. Tom Lelyo highlights some areas to base your homework around...

Tom Lelyo  |  21st August 2023
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    Tom Lelyo
    Tom Lelyo

    From Youth Ministry to selling million dollar private jets, Tom Lelyo was the Top Producer in one of...

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    Pre-owned Cessna Citation Jets - can you spot a bargain?

    After sharing some tips when shopping the older Cessna Citation jet market, we continue with a look at some additional considerations for buyers before they take delivery of an older Citation model – some of which are half a century old.

    Though the focus for the following article is pre-owned Cessna Citation models, the same logic can be applied to most older private jet models.

    One of the key areas to focus on is the airframe and engine times. After 10,000 hours or more, even the most rugged piece of machinery may start to show signs of wear. Fortunately, Cessna has implemented a comprehensive inspection list and schedule for older Cessna Citation jet models.

    Among the inspections Cessna implemented are airframe X-Rays designed to search for cracks, and as the airframe ages the checks become more frequent.

    Nevertheless, buyers inevitably need to make sure they are comfortable flying an airplane that’s had so much previous use. Ultimately, the 10,000-hour milestone doesn’t necessarily mark the end of the road for an older Citation jet. Hundreds of owners around the world fly older models with 13,000, even 16,000, hours clocked up.

    Nor should buyers automatically assume that a Citation with only 4,000-6,000 hours on its airframe/engines qualifies as being in better condition. It may have sat idle in a hangar for the last few years, and that’s where gremlins and squawks can creep in.

    The bottom line is that if you find a Citation with over 10,000 hours on its airframe, there’s no need to automatically discount it from your consideration. It may still have many years of life remaining in it. Assuming the purchase price is right, and you can justify the costs, you can upgrade the avionics, interior, exterior and engines to maximize comfort, productivity, functionality and safety of the aircraft.

    A thorough Pre-Purchase Inspection and test flight will help you build a better picture of the true condition of the jet.

    Older Cessna Citation Maintenance History

    Every owner has a different outlook on how their jet ought to be maintained. Some will have a more relaxed approach, fixing only what needs to be fixed, when it needs to be fixed. Others are far more stringent and willing to invest more heavily in the upkeep of their jet. And a few are unfortunately negligent of an aircraft’s maintenance needs.

    Further clouding the picture is that an older Citation jet is likely to have had multiple owners, each with differing approaches.

    Moreover, newer jets tend to be maintained at OEM- authorized maintenance centers, whereas older jets may have received different standards of maintenance work undertaken over their decades in service.

    On the bright side, given the sheer volume of the Cessna Citation fleet, coupled with the number of years the popular older Cessna Citation models have been flying and requiring maintenance, there is a large pool of make/model experts in the field who know and understand these machines very well.

    Essentially, irrespective of the number of previous owners an airplane has had, its maintenance and upkeep records should be outlined in detail through its logbooks, giving you a clear, uninterrupted story of the aircraft from the day it rolled off the production line to the present day.

    If you carefully review the logbooks and are satisfied that nothing is missing, and that appropriate care has been taken of the jet, you can be assured of your aircraft’s maintenance future. But if the logbooks are lacking vital information or are incomplete, it is wise to shop elsewhere.

    Parts Availability of Older Cessna Citations

    For newer aircraft, when a part needs to be fixed the question tends to be whether to repair or replace it. For older jets, replacement parts cease to be manufactured after a while, so the question becomes ‘refurbish or repair?’.

    And that question leads to others. For example, questions arise about quality control when it comes to repaired or refurbished parts, and the downtime that will be required. As parts become increasingly scarce, what may only take a few days on a newer Citation CJ3 or CJ4 may take weeks to fix on an older Citation V.

    Some owners do not like the idea of having a refurbished part installed on their aircraft, whereas others see it as a cost-effective way to keep the aircraft flying.

    Either way, when it comes to maintenance, before you purchase an older jet you and your mechanic should have a plan for how you will address and source materials when parts break.

    Pilot Availability for Older Cessna Citations

    Maintaining a qualified pool of pilots for older jets can also be a challenge. As pilots get younger, they’re training on newer equipment for their jet type rating.

    While aviation still has pilots who trained in the 20th century, the last thing you want is for them to feel like they stepped aboard your aircraft and got transported back in time and are unable to operate the aircraft with the same confidence they would have aboard a newer jet.

    One of the benefits of private aviation is that you’re in charge of choosing your flight crew if you have your own Flight Department. The bad news is that you oversee finding the right pilot in the first place.

    Fortunately, leading avionics manufacturers like Garmin have stepped up, producing all-glass flight deck retrofits that bring a 20th century jet right up to date with modern-day avionics and flight systems.

    If the older Citation you’re considering purchasing is already equipped with one of these, it automatically broadens the field of eligible pilots to fly it. If it is not, you may want to weigh the asking price against the cost of having a newer panel installed.

    Financing for Older Cessna Citations

    While the asking prices for legacy Cessna Citation models tend to be lower, buyers who would prefer to finance their purchase may encounter roadblocks.

    Most lenders – especially those who do not specialize in aviation – will prefer to agree loans for newer aircraft. They will also almost always request that the aircraft be enrolled on an engine maintenance program. Older Cessna Citations tend to miss both requirements.

    Recently, however, a new group of lenders came into the marketplace to try and facilitate more deals for buyers. While they generally offer loans with higher interest rates, or require a larger downpayment, the offset is that buyers seeking to finance older Citations may well qualify.

    Legacy Citation Due Diligence Advice

    Ultimately, when shopping for any older jet (not just Cessna Citations) you need to thoroughly understand what you’re getting. The cheapest part about owning a private jet is the purchase price. After you buy an aircraft, the real expenses show themselves. Don’t let them be a surprise to you.

    Ultimately, older Citations are fantastic options for those owners who:

    • Aren’t turned-off by older airframes;
    • Will audit the maintenance history properly;
    • Will have a maintenance plan in place to handle the required parts;
    • Don’t mind searching a little harder for pilots (or upgrading the flight deck);
    • Don’t require financing or are prepared to pay more interest or a bigger down payment.

    The Business Aviation industry is not short of experts who are available to partner with you in your transaction, guiding you through all the potential pitfalls.

    A knowledgeable broker in the field will have an extensive network of contacts to handle each specialized area and get the deal over the line, ensuring the aircraft you buy is one that you’ll be happy with for years to come.

    Check out more tips on buying older Cessna Citation jets.

    More information from

    All Photos by Ally Dale, Instagram

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