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Cessna Citation CJ3

In this month’s Aircraft Comparative Analysis- we provide information on a selection of Pre-Owned and New business jets spanning the $2.2-8.2 million range- with the aim of assessing the value of the pre-owned Cessna CJ3. We’ll consider the usual productivity parameters - payload/range- speed and cabin size - and cover current and future market values. The field of this study includes the Hawker Beechcraft Premier 1A and the Bombardier Learjet 31A.

The CitationJet (Model 525) and its subsequent incarnations - the CJ1- CJ1+- CJ2- CJ2+- CJ3 and the CJ4 models - are low-wing aircraft with T-tail and pressurized cabins. They are powered by two turbofan engines pylon-mounted on the rear fuselage. All of the CJ-family of aircraft are classified as light jets.

The Cessna Citation CJ3 (Model 525B) is essentially a stretch extension of the CJ2. The CJ3 is permitted to operate with a single pilot under U.S. registry only- but has two crew-member seats. The CJ3 received full FAA type certification in October 2004. Table A lists the Citation CJ family of aircraft by years-of-manufacture. As shown- the CJ3 has the largest number of business jets in service today of all the CJ business jet family.

The data contained in Table B is published in the B&CA- May 2011 issue- but is also sourced from Conklin & de Decker. As stated in previous articles- a potential operator should focus on the payload capability of an aircraft. The Citation CJ3’s ‘Available payload with Maximum Fuel’ at 775 pounds is greater than the Premier 1A at 320 pounds- but considerably less than the Learjet 31A at 1-873 lbs.

According to Conklin & de Decker- the cabin volume of the Citation CJ3 (283 cubic feet) is larger than the Learjet 31A (271 cubic feet)- but 10.2% smaller than the Premier 1A (315 cubic feet)- as depicted in Chart A.

The Citation CJ3 aircraft utilizes two Williams FJ44-3A engines each offering 2-820 lbst. The Premier 1A employs two Williams FJ44-2A engines (2-300 lbst)- while the Learjet 31A is powered by two Honeywell TFE731-2 engines (3-500 lbst). Using data published in the May 2011 B&CA Planning and Purchasing Handbook and the August 2011 B&CA Operations Planning Guide we will compare our aircraft. Jet-A fuel cost was $6.04 per gallon in the August 2011 edition- so for the sake of comparison we’ll chart the numbers as published.

Note: The fuel price used in this source does not represent an average fuel price for the year.

Table C- as sourced from the Aircraft Cost Calculator (ACC) shows the fuel usage by each aircraft model in this field of study. One of the unique benefits of using ACC is to quickly analyze- evaluate and customize by inserting your own numbers that will provide accurate operating figures for your own aircraft and/or flight department. The Premier 1A at 159 gallons per hour (GPH) leads the rest of the field as the most frugal- followed by the CJ3 at 172 GPH and the Learjet 31A at 202 GPH.

Chart B- which details ‘Cost per Mile’- compares the Citation CJ3 to its competition factoring direct costs and with all aircraft flying a 600nm mission with an 800 pound (four passenger) payload. The newer CJ3 at $3.21 and the Premier 1A at $2.92 cost less to operate per mile than the older Learjet 31A at $3.81.

The ‘Total Variable Cost’ illustrated in Chart C is defined as the cost of Fuel Expense- Maintenance Labor Expense- Scheduled Parts Expense and Miscellaneous trip expense. The total variable cost for the two newer aircraft - the CJ3 at $1-216 and the Premier 1A at $1-130 per hour are considerably less expensive to operate compared to the older-generation Learjet 31A aircraft at $1-614 cost per hour.

The points in Chart D center on the same
group of aircraft. Pricing used in the vertical axis is as published in the B&CA 2011 Purchase Planning Handbook and Vref. 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 confined to the aircraft in this study. A computed curve fit on this plot would not be very tight- but when all business jet aircraft are considered the “r” squared factor would equal a number above 0.9. Others may choose different parameters- but serious business aircraft buyers are usually impressed with Price- Range- Speed and Cabin Size.

After consideration of these factors- we can conclude that the CJ3- as shown in Chart D- is highly productive within its comparative field. By direct comparison to the field in this study- the CJ3 has a ’right-sized’ cabin volume within its class- and its costs are competitive (based on cost per mile and variable cost compared to the competitors in this field of study). The real advantage over its newer competitor - the Premier 1A - is its ability to carry a greater payload with maximum fuel. By contrast- whereas the older Learjet 31A has a significantly greater payload with maximum fuel than the CJ3- its operating costs are significantly more.

The CJ3 continues to be very popular with operators- and with just 5.9% of the in-service fleet for sale- remains one of the few seller’s market aircraft below 10% for sale (see Table D). The relative retail prices shown are from Vref for each aircraft. The number of aircraft in-operation and the percentage “For Sale” are from JETNET.

Compiled from JETNET’s STAR reporting system- the data in Table E can be valuable information for dealer/broker repeat business. The major based at locations for the Citation CJ3 are in the United States and Europe where 90% of the fleet resides. This information factors wholly-owned aircraft only. There are currently 11 CJ3 aircraft in shared-ownership and 18 in fractional ownership.

Within the preceding paragraphs we have touched upon several of the attributes that business aircraft operators value. There are other qualities such as airport performance- terminal area performance- and time to climb performance that might factor in a buying decision- too- however.

The Cessna Citation CJ3 aircraft fares well against its competition- so the preceding comparison should be of value. Our expectations are that the Citation CJ3 aircraft 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:

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