- 01 Jan 2022
- Mike Chase
- Jet Comparisons
How do the Cessna Citation XLS Gen2, Pilatus PC-24 and Cessna Citation CJ4 Gen2 compare side-by-side? What are the advantages offered by each model? Mike Chase analyses the performance and productivity parameters.Back to Articles
Over the following paragraphs we’ll consider key productivity parameters for the Cessna Citation XLS Gen2, Pilatus PC-24, and Cessna Citation CJ4 Gen2, including payload, range, speed and cabin size, to establish which aircraft provides the better value.
With each of these three jets having similar range, what would be the “sweet spot” driving an acquisition in each case? It is hoped that the following aircraft comparison will help clarify.
The Cessna Citation XLS Gen2 was introduced to the market in 2022 and is the latest version of the Citation XLS (327 of which are in operation). The Citation XLS was itself an upgrade on the older Citation Excel, and was built between 2004 and 2009, after which Cessna again upgraded the model with the Citation XLS+ (314 in operation).
In 2022, Textron (Cessna) acted to modernize the aircraft with the Citation XLS Gen2, which offers increased payload capabilities. Much focus was also given to improving and optimizing cabin comfort, and the incorporation of a new lighted airstair.
As of the end of April 2023, Textron had delivered 19 Citation XLS Gen2 jets, 18 of which were wholly owned, and another was under shared ownership, per JETNET data. North America was home to the largest fleet percentage (67%), followed by Europe (28%).
The Pilatus PC-24 is a clean-sheet design representing Pilatus’ first foray into the business jet market. Pilatus designed the aircraft based on feedback from its PC-12 turboprop customers, who desired an aircraft with increased range and speed, but wanted to retain the short runway ability of their PC-12s.
The PC-24 received certification in December 2017, and is certified for single pilot operation. It is distinct in its ability as a business jet to operate from short, unimproved runways, and has proven popular since its market introduction.
At the time of writing, there are 169 wholly-owned Pilatus PC-24s, five under shared ownership, and 22 in fractional ownership programs, giving a total of 196 jets in operation worldwide. By continent, North America accounts for 55% of the in-operation fleet, followed by Europe (29%), according to JETNET.
The original Cessna Citation CJ4 was produced from 2010 until 2021, with 340 units in operation worldwide at the time of writing. Textron (Cessna) upgraded the model’s interior to increase passenger comfort when it introduced the Citation CJ4 Gen2, deliveries of which began in 2021.
Among the enhanced features of the CJ4 Gen2 is its new folding airstair with a lower step to the ground, step lighting, and handrail. Additional seating options, new ambient lighting, and galley improvements were also made available.
There were 63 wholly-owned Citation CJ4 Gen2 jets in operation worldwide, and an additional one was under shared ownership as of April 2023 (total fleet, 64 jets). North America had the largest fleet percentage (81%), followed by Europe (13%).
When comparing business jets, an important area for potential operators to focus on is payload capability, and especially the ‘Available Payload with Maximum Fuel’. Table A shows the Citation CJ4 Gen2 ‘Available Payload with Maximum Fuel’ to be 1,122lbs, which is more than the 800lbs offered by the Citation XLS+ Gen2 and the 715lbs offered by the Pilatus PC-24.
Table A - Citation XLS Gen2 vs Pilatus PC-24 vs Citation CJ4 Gen2 Payload Comparison
As shown in Chart A, the Cessna Citation XLS Gen2 has more height (5.7ft) than the Pilatus PC-24 (5.1ft) and Citation CJ4 Gen2 (4.8ft), though it is important to note that the PC-24 is the only jet in this field to offer a flat cabin floor design.
The Pilatus PC-24 offers the most cabin width, at 5.6ft, in comparison to the Citation XLS Gen2 (5.5ft) and Citation CJ4 Gen2 (4.8ft).
Meanwhile, not depicted on the cross-section, the Citation XLS Gen2 has the longer cabin (18.5ft), compared to the Pilatus PC-24 (17ft) and the Citation CJ4 Gen2 (17.3ft). Nevertheless, according to B&CA data, the Pilatus PC-24 provides more overall cabin volume (501cu.ft.) than the Citation XLS Gen2 (422cu.ft.) and Citation CJ4 Gen2 (293cu.ft.), perhaps due to the flat floor design of the PC-24.
Moreover, the Pilatus PC-24 provides the most internal luggage volume (90cu.ft.) compared to the Citation XLS Gen2 (10cu.ft.) and CJ4 Gen2 (7cu.ft.), though it offers no external baggage space. Externally, the Citation XLS Gen2 (80cu.ft.) and Citation CJ4 Gen2 (71cu.ft.), both provide baggage storage.
Chart A - Citation XLS Gen2 vs Pilatus PC-24 vs Citation CJ4 Gen2 Cabin Comparison
Using Wichita, Kansas, as the starting point, Chart B shows the Pilatus PC-24 has the longest range at 2,022nm when flying with four passengers and available fuel. The Citation CJ4 Gen 2 (1,927nm) and Citation XLS Gen 2 (1,877nm) offer slightly less range.
Note: For business jets, ‘Four Pax Range’ represents the maximum IFR range of these aircraft at long range cruise. The NBAA IFR fuel reserve calculation is for a 200nm alternate. This range does not include winds aloft or any other weather-related obstacles.
Chart B - Citation XLS Gen2 vs Pilatus PC-24 vs Citation CJ4 Gen2 Range Comparison
The Citation XLS Gen2 has two Pratt & Whitney Canada PW545C engines providing 4,119lbst each. These burn 197 gallons of fuel/hour.
By comparison, the Pilatus PC-24 has two Williams International FJ44-4A-QPM engines producing 3,420lbst each, and burning 160 gallons of fuel/hour.
Lastly, the Citation CJ4 Gen2 utilizes two Williams International FJ44-4A engines, providing 3,621lbst each, burning 172 gallons of fuel/hour.
Chart C compares the three jets, detailing their ‘Cost per Mile’, and factors direct costs with all aircraft flying a 1,000nm mission with an 800lbs (four passengers) payload. The Citation XLS Gen2 ($5.28/nm) has a higher cost per mile compared to the Pilatus PC-24 ($4.71/nm) and the Citation CJ4 GEN2 ($4.22/nm).
Chart C - Citation XLS Gen2 vs Pilatus PC-24 vs Citation CJ4 Gen2 Hourly Cost Comparison
The ‘Variable Cost’, as illustrated in Chart D, is defined as the estimated cost of fuel, maintenance labor, scheduled parts, and miscellaneous trip expenses (such as 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. The Citation CJ4 Gen2 ($1,399/hr) has the lowest variable cost compared to the Citation XLS Gen2 ($1,674/hr) and the Pilatus PC-24 ($1,500/hr).
Chart D - Citation XLS Gen2 vs Pilatus PC-24 vs Citation CJ4 Gen2 Variable Cost Comparison
Table B contains the 2022 prices (per B&CA) for the Cessna Citation XLS Gen2, Pilatus PC-24 and the Citation CJ4 Gen2. Also listed are the long-range cruise speed and range numbers (per B&CA).
The number of aircraft in-operation, the percentage for sale, and average sold per month are from JETNET. At the time of writing, the average number of new/used transactions (units sold) per month over the previous 12 months was two for the Citation XLS Gen2, five for the Pilatus PC-24, and three for the Citation CJ4 Gen2.
Table B - Citation XLS Gen2 vs Pilatus PC-24 vs Citation CJ4 Gen2 Market Comparison
As of May 9, 2023, there were ten Pilatus PC-24 jets for sale on the pre-owned market with none showing an asking price. By comparison, there were no pre-owned Cessna Citation XLS Gen2 or Citation CJ4 Gen2 jets for sale.
While each aircraft serial number is unique, the Airframe Total Time (AFTT) and age/condition 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.
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 is 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 qualifying 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 seven-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 Act, taxpayers may be able to deduct up to 100% of the cost of a new or pre-owned aircraft purchased and placed in service before January 1, 2023. Beginning January 1, 2023, that deduction was reduced to 80%.
Nevertheless, ‘Transportation Property’ described in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) §168(k)(2)(B) and ‘Certain Aircraft’ described in IRC §168(k)(2)(C) will have a one-year delay in the phasedown. Thus, such property may still be eligible for 100% bonus depreciation if placed into service in 2023.
This 100% expensing provision is a huge bonus for aircraft owners and operators. After December 31, 2022, the Act decreases the percentage available each year by 20% to depreciate qualified business jets until December 31, 2026.
Table C depicts an example of using the MACRS schedule for a 2022-model Cessna Citation XLS Gen2 in private (Part 91) and charter (Part 135) operations over five- and seven-year periods. The price is as published by B&CA at the time of writing.
Table C - Citation XLS Gen2 MACRS Sample Schedule
Table D depicts an example of using the MACRS schedule for a 2022-model Pilatus PC-24 in private (Part 91) and charter (Part 135) operations over five- and seven-year periods. Again, the price is as published by B&CA at the time of writing.
Table D - Pilatus PC-24 MACRS Sample Schedule
Table E depicts an example of using the MACRS schedule for a 2022-edition Citation CJ4 Gen2 in private (Part 91) and charter (Part 135) operations over five- and seven- year periods, with the price as published in B&CA at the time of writing.
Table E - Citation CJ4 Gen2 MACRS Sample Schedule
The points in Chart E are centered on the same aircraft. Pricing used in the horizontal axis is as published in B&CA. The productivity index requires further discussion since 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 - Citation XLS Gen2 vs Pilatus PC-24 -vs Citation CJ4 Gen2 Productivity Comparison
Prospective buyers of one of these Light Jets would have to weigh the capabilities of each very carefully against their specific mission need to determine which is the best fit for their flight operations.
With the greatest cabin volume, longest range, and lowest fuel burn the Pilatus PC-24 ranks very well within the comparative field for productivity.
Though the Cessna Citation CJ4 Gen2 has the lowest range and smallest cabin volume, it offers the highest available payload with full fuel, and is the most economical to operate with the lowest cost per mile and variable hourly cost of the field.
Cessna offers the Citation XLS Gen2 as a step-up for brand-loyal operators, with greater cabin volume than the CJ4 – but these come at a cost. The XLS Gen2’s acquisition and operating costs are the highest in the field.
Further considerations will come into play once these jets build a meaningful track record on the pre-owned market, and more is understood as to how each model depreciates with age.
Within these paragraphs we’ve touched upon several of the attributes that business jet operators value, although there are other qualities such as airport performance, terminal area performance and time-to-climb that might factor in a buying decision.
Ultimately, there is plenty for a prospective buyer to consider when deciding which performance criteria is better suited to them in an aircraft. These three business jets offer great value in the market today.