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Cessna Citation Ultra
Jet comparisons within the pre-owned $2.2-2.7m range.

In this month’s Aircraft Comparative Analysis- we provide information on a selection of pre-owned business jets in the $2.2-2.7 million price range for the purpose of valuing the pre-owned Citation Ultra. We’ll consider the productivity parameters - payload/range- speed and cabin size - and cover current and future market values. The field in this study includes the Hawker Beechcraft Beechjet 400A and the Bombardier Learjet 31A.

The Cessna Citation V (Model 560) is a turbofan-powered small-sized business jet. The Citation brand of business jets encompasses several distinct 'families' of aircraft- and the Citation V was the basis for one of these families that includes the Citation Ultra- the Citation Encore and the Citation Encore+. It was in 1993 that Cessna opted to update the Citation V design- and announced the Citation Ultra.

The main differences surround the engines (changed from two Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5As to JT15D-5Ds) and the standard avionics suite (updated to the Honeywell Primus 1000 EFIS glass cockpit and a digital autopilot). The Primus 1000 replaced the standard 'round dial' flight instruments with three CRT computer screens - one for each pilot- and one center multifunction display. Another standard feature included Freon air conditioning. The Ultra (produced between 1994 and 1999) can be RVSM certified when Service Bulletin SB-560-34-79 is complied with.

The data contained in Table A is published in the Business & Commercial Aviation- May 2009 issue- but is also sourced from Conklin & de Decker. As we have mentioned in past articles- a potential operator should focus on payload capability. The Citation Ultra’s ‘Available payload with Maximum Fuel’ at 779 pounds is greater than the Beechjet 400A at 473 pounds. The Learjet 31A has more than double the available payload with maximum fuel compared to the Citation Ultra.

According to Conklin & de Decker- the cabin volume of the Citation Ultra (292 cubic feet) is less than the Beechjet 400A (305 cubic feet)- but larger than the Learjet 31A at 271 cubic feet- as shown in Chart A.

As mentioned previously- the Citation Ultra has two P&WC JT15D-5D engines- each offering 3-045 pounds of thrust. The Beechjet 400A has two P&WC JT15D-5 engines with slightly less thrust at 2-965 pounds each. However- the Learjet 31A is powered by two Honeywell (TFE731-2) engines - each offering substantially more thrust at 3-500 pounds.

Using data published in the May 2009 B&CA Planning and Purchasing Handbook and the August 2009 B&CA Operations Planning Guide we will compare our aircraft. Jet A fuel cost in our source publications was $4.25 per gallon at press time for the August 2009 edition- so for the sake of comparison we’ll chart the numbers as published.

Chart B- which details ‘Cost per Mile’- compares the Citation Ultra to its competition factoring direct costs and with all aircraft flying a 1-000nm mission with an 800 pound (four passengers) payload. The Citation Ultra costs $3.09 per nautical mile- which is more expensive to operate than either the Learjet 31A at $2.78 or the Beechjet 400A at $2.68 per nm.

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 Citation Ultra at $1-295 per hour is more expensive to operate per hour than the competitive aircraft listed.

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 2009 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 the Price- Range- Speed and Cabin Size- we can conclude that the Citation Ultra- as shown on the productivity index Chart D- is competitive with the Learjet 31A- while both are less productive than the Beechjet 400A.

The leading reason for the Citation Ultra’s lower index number compared to the Beechjet 400A aircraft is primarily due to its slow speed. For more than 20 years (prior to the development of the Citation X)- the Citation line was known as a well-handling- but somewhat slow aircraft.

Cessna engineers emphasized practicality and good handling characteristics. Table B contains the retail prices from the March 2010 Vref edition for each aircraft. The prices shown are for the last year of manufacture. The number of aircraft in-operation- percentage “For Sale” and the number “Sold” over the past 12 months are from JETNET.

As shown in the table- the Citation Ultra has the lowest percentage of the in-operation fleet “For Sale” at 13.8% (buyer’s market). Over the past 12 months the Citation Ultra is showing Full Sales Transactions at an average of four per month from the large base of 276 aircraft in-operation today. This sales activity provides many opportunities for the savvy dealer/broker specializing in the Citation Ultra aircraft.

As Table C shows- of all the Citation Ultra owners- the majority (83%) own the whole aircraft- while just 3% are in a shared ownership position- or (15%) are fractional owners.

The ‘Average Length of Ownership’ for a pre-owned Citation Ultra is 2.6 years- compared with 2.5 years for all Citation jets. Both these figures are slightly less than the average length of ownership across the spectrum of all business jets (2.7 years). This information is presented in JETNET’s STAR reporting system- and can be valuable information for dealer/broker repeat business to anticipate frequency of aircraft ownership changes.

The majority of the 228 (whole ownership) Citation Ultra aircraft in operation are located in North America (81%)- followed by Europe at 7% and South America at 6% (see Chart E).

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 Citation Ultra fares well against its competition- so those operators in the market should find the preceding comparison of value. Our expectations are that the Citation Ultra will continue to do well in the pre-owned market.

For more information: Michael Chase is president of Chase & Associates- and can be contacted at 1628 Snowmass Place- Lewisville- TX75077; Tel: 214-226-9882; Web: www.mdchase.aero  



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