Cessna Citation CJ3+ vs CJ4 Gen2 vs Embraer Phenom 300E

How do the Cessna Citation CJ3+, Citation CJ4 Gen2 and Embraer Phenom 300E compare side-by-side? What are the advantages offered by each model? Mike Chase analyses the performance and productivity of these three popular Light Jets.

Mike Chase  |  01st April 2024
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    Mike Chase
    Mike Chase

    Michael Chase owns Chase & Associates, an aviation consulting firm specialized in industry product...

    Cessna Citation CJ3+

    Over the following paragraphs we’ll consider key productivity parameters for the Cessna Citation CJ3+, Cessna Citation CJ4 Gen2 and Embraer Phenom 300E, including payload, range, speed, and cabin size.

    In this Jet Comparison, we’ll aim to explore where the step-up requirement might lie for Light Jet operators seeking a little more space and range, and which option would suit best.

    Cessna Citation CJ3+

    The original Cessna Citation CJ3 received FAA type certification in October 2004 and proved to be popular over the ten years it was in production. In 2014, Cessna enhanced the model and introduced the Cessna Citation CJ3+ which offered a range of upgrades, the biggest being the introduction of Garmin G3000 avionics.

    Operating with a pair of Williams FJ44 powerplants, the CJ3+ offered a step-up in range, passenger capacity and cabin volume over the CJ2+. At the time of writing, the CJ3+ remained in production, though a CJ3 Gen2 was announced towards the end of 2023, and should enter production soon.

    There were 269 Citation CJ3+ jets in operation at the time of writing, including 229 wholly owned, 15 in shared ownership, and 18 fractionally owned, according to JETNET. North America has the largest fleet percentage (84%), followed by Europe (8%), then South America (6%).

    Cessna Citation CJ4 Gen2

    Originally launched in 2006, the Cessna Citation CJ4 offered more cabin volume, speed, and a little more range than the CJ3 to provide a natural step-up choice for brand-loyal operators of smaller Cessnas. The CJ4 was also the first CitationJet to incorporate a swept wing, adding the Citation Sovereign’s wing to its design.

    Upon introducing the Citation CJ4 Gen2 in 2021, Cessna’s focus centered on cabin enhancements, including upgraded seating and a wireless CMS (giving passengers better control of lighting, window shades and cabin temperature), and incorporation of a skylight in the lavatory.

    As of this writing, there were 89 Cessna Citation CJ4 Gen2 jets in operation around the world, 83 of which were wholly-owned and six were under fractional ownership, per JETNET data. Eighty-four percent of the fleet was based in the US with a further 11% in Europe.

    Embraer Phenom 300E

    When introduced to the market, the Embraer Phenom 300E represented a significant upgrade over the original Phenom 300, including a new interior design and avionics (Prodigy Touch Flight Deck with Garmin G3000).

    Powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, the Phenom 300E is a strong candidate for operators needing a Light Jet capable of missions up to 2,000nm.

    With a similar fleet size to the CJ3+, at the time of writing there were 272 Phenom 300E units in operation worldwide – 230 of which were wholly-owned, 33 in fractional ownership and nine in shared ownership, per JETNET. North America was home to the largest fleet percentage (69%), followed by Europe (17%), then South America (12%).

    Payload Comparison

    When comparing aircraft, an important area for potential operators to focus on is payload capability, and especially the ‘Available Payload with Maximum Fuel’. Table A shows the Embraer Phenom 300E has almost twice the Available Payload with Maximum Fuel as the Cessna Citation CJ3+, and approximately 450lbs more than the CJ4 Gen2.

    Table A - Cessna Citation CJ3+ vs Citation CJ4 Gen2 vs Embraer Phenom 300E Payload Comparison

    Cabin Comparison

    Chart A depicts the cabin cross-sections of the Citation CJ3+, Citation CJ4 Gen2 and Phenom 300E. As shown, the Phenom 300E has more cabin height and width when compared to the Citation models. The Phenom 300E also has a greater cabin length than the CJ3+ (17.2ft vs 15.7ft), but slightly less than the CJ4 Gen2 (17.3ft).

    Chart A - Cessna Citation CJ3+ vs Citation CJ4 Gen2 vs Embraer Phenom 300E Cabin Comparison

    Overall, Embraer’s Phenom 300E (324cu.ft) provides more cabin volume compared to CJ3+ (286cu.ft) and CJ4 Gen2 (293cu.ft). The Phenom 300E also has more external luggage space (74cu.ft) than the CJ4 Gen2 and CJ3+ (71cu.ft and 65cu.ft, respectively), while internally the Phenom 300E has 10cu.ft baggage storage, the CJ4 Gen2 has 7cu.ft, and the CJ3+ has none.

    Range Comparison

    Chart B uses Wichita, Kansas as the start point for our comparative field. Carrying four passengers and full fuel, the Cessna Citation CJ3+ offers the least range coverage (1,825nm) compared to the Citation CJ4 Gen2 (1,927nm) and the Embraer Phenom 300E (2,010nm).

    Chart B - Cessna Citation CJ3+ vs Citation CJ4 Gen2 vs Embraer Phenom 300E Range Comparison

    Note: For business jets, ‘Four Pax Range’ represents the maximum IFR range of the aircraft at long range cruise. NBAA IFR fuel reserve calculation is for a 200nm alternate. This range does not include winds aloft or any other weather-related obstacles.

    Powerplant Details

    Two Williams FJ44-3A engines power the Cessna Citation CJ3+, burning 133 gallons of fuel per hour (gph) and each providing 2,820lbst. By comparison, the Citation CJ4 Gen2 uses Williams FJ44-4A engines with an output of 3,621lbst and burning 172gph fuel. The Embraer Phenom 300E is powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PW535E1 engines, each offering 3,478lbst and burning 158gph.

    Cost per Mile Comparison

    Chart C details ‘Cost per Mile’, comparing the Cessna Citation CJ3+, Citation CJ4 Gen2 and the Embraer Phenom 300E business jets and factoring direct costs with all aircraft flying a 1,000nm mission with an 800lbs (four passengers) payload.

    Chart C - Cessna Citation CJ3+ vs Citation CJ4 Gen2 vs Embraer Phenom 300E Cost Per Mile Comparison

    The Embraer Phenom 300E has the higher cost per nautical mile at $4.66, which is more than the Citation CJ4 Gen2 ($4.41) and CJ3+ ($4.12 per nautical mile).

    Variable Cost Comparison

    The ‘Variable Cost’, illustrated in Chart D, is defined as the estimated cost of fuel expense, maintenance labor expense,

    scheduled parts expense, and miscellaneous trip expense (hangar, crew and catering).

    These costs DO NOT represent a direct source into every flight department and their trip support expenses. For comparative purposes, the costs presented are the relative differences, not the actual differences since these may vary from one flight department to another.

    Chart D - Cessna Citation CJ3+ vs Citation CJ4 Gen2 vs Embraer Phenom 300E Variable Cost Comparison

    The Cessna Citation CJ4 Gen2 shows a higher variable cost at $1,437/hr compared to the Embraer Phenom 300E ($1,324/hr) and Citation CJ3+ ($1,188/hr).

    Market Comparison

    Table B contains the new prices (per Aircraft Bluebook, Spring 2024) for a 2023 model Citation CJ3+, CJ4 Gen2 and Embraer Phenom 300E. The long-range cruise speed and range numbers are from B&CA, while the cabin volumes, the number of aircraft in-operation, the percentage for sale, and average sold are from JETNET.

    Table B - Cessna Citation CJ3+ vs Citation CJ4 Gen2 vs Embraer Phenom 300E Market Comparison

    The average number of new and used transactions (units sold) per month over the previous 12 months for the Citation CJ3+ is five, compared to four for the CJ4 Gen2 and seven for the Embraer Phenom 300E.

    At the time of writing, there were 11 Cessna Citation CJ3+ business jets available for sale on the used aircraft market with asking prices ranging from $3.95m to $8.295m. The majority for sale were inviting offers from interested buyers and two had sales pending.

    By comparison, three Citation CJ4 Gen2 jets were available for sale (none of which displayed an asking price) and six Embraer Phenom 300E jets were on the market with two displaying asking prices of $11.29m and $11.7m. The majority for sale invited buyers to make an inquiry, while two had a sale pending.

    While each serial number is unique, the Airframe Total Time (AFTT) and age/condition of an aircraft will cause great variation in the price of a specific aircraft – even between two aircraft from the same year of manufacture. The final negotiated price remains to be decided between the seller and buyer before the sale of an aircraft is completed.

    Depreciation Schedule

    Aircraft that are owned and operated by businesses are often depreciable for income tax purposes under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS). Under MACRS, taxpayers can use accelerated depreciation of assets by taking a greater percentage of the deductions during the first few years of the applicable recovery period.

    In certain cases, aircraft may not qualify under the MACRS system and must be depreciated under the less favorable Alternative Depreciation System (ADS), based on a straight-line method meaning that equal deductions are taken during each year of the applicable recovery period. In most cases, recovery periods under ADS are longer than recovery periods available under MACRS.

    There are a variety of factors that taxpayers must consider in determining if an aircraft may be depreciated, and if so, the correct depreciation method and recovery period that should be utilized. For example, aircraft used in charter service (i.e. Part 135) are normally depreciated under MACRS over a seven-year recovery period, or under ADS using a twelve-year recovery period.

    Aircraft used for qualified business purposes, such as Part 91 business use flights, are generally depreciated under MACRS over a period of five years or by using ADS with a six-year recovery period. There are certain uses of the aircraft, such as non-business flights, that may have an impact on the allowable depreciation deduction available in any given year.

    The US enacted the 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act into law on December 22, 2017. Under the new Act, taxpayers may be able to deduct up to 100% of the cost of a new or pre-owned aircraft purchased after September 27, 2017 and placed in service before January 1, 2023.

    This 100% expensing provision was a huge bonus for aircraft owners and operators. After December 31, 2022 the Act decreased the percentage available each year by 20% to depreciate qualified business jets until December 31, 2026. Currently 60% bonus depreciation is available for aircraft buyers.

    Tables C, D and E depict examples of using the MACRS schedule for a 2023-model Cessna Citation CJ3+, CJ4 Gen2 and Phenom 300E, respectively, in private (Part 91) and charter (Part 135) operations over five- and seven-year periods.

    Tables C, D and E - Sample MACRS Tax Depreciation Schedules

    Productivity Comparison

    The points in Chart E are centered on the Citation CJ3+, Citation CJ4 Gen2 and Embraer Phenom 300E. Pricing used in the vertical axis is as published in Aircraft Bluebook. 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. Four Passenger Range (nm) with available fuel

    2. The long-range cruise speed flown to achieve that range

    3. The cabin volume available for passengers and amenities

    Chart E - Cessna Citation CJ3+ vs Citation CJ4 Gen2 vs Embraer Phenom 300E Productivity Comparison

    Others may choose different parameters, but serious business aircraft buyers are usually impressed with price, range, speed and cabin size.

    With a lower cost (2023 model), less range, cabin volume, speed and payload with full fuel capacity, the Cessna Citation CJ3+ shows the point at which the owner of a smaller Light Jet may begin to consider an aircraft that offers a little more capability, should their mission needs begin to evolve. Like the CJ3+, the CJ4 Gen2 and Phenom 300E can both be operated with a single pilot, and for a higher acquisition price they offer increases in performance in all of the above aspects.

    Our comparison shows the Embraer Phenom 300E provides more range, speed and cabin volume, reflected by the fact it leads the Productivity Index. It also allows for more available payload with full fuel – though it is the most expensive of the field to acquire, at $12.5m, and its cost per mile is greater than the two Cessna Citation models.

    Within the preceding paragraphs we have touched upon several of the attributes that business jet operators value, though there are other qualities such as airport performance, terminal area performance and time to climb that might factor in a buying decision, and those shopping the market for the right jet for their mission needs will need to assess all elements of a jets’ capabilities and specifications against that need and their budget.

    Ultimately there is plenty for a prospective buyer to consider when deciding which performance criteria is better suited to them in an aircraft. These business jets offer great value in the market today.

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    Mike Chase

    Mike Chase

    Editor, Aircraft Comparisons

    Michael Chase owns Chase & Associates, an aviation consulting firm specialized in industry product and market research in the Commercial & Business Aviation sectors.

    With over five decades of extensive experience, Michael has worked as a director of special projects for JETNET, LLC; served as Senior Management Consultant for Sabre Holding; and was Director of Market & Sales Research for Gulfstream Aerospace, leading sales and product research, including feasibility and viability studies.



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