Jet Comparison: Cessna Citation CJ2+ vs CJ3+ vs M2

How do the Cessna Citation CJ2+, CJ3+ and M2 compare side-by-side? What are the advantages offered by each, and where does the need to step up or down in the Citation family arise? Mike Chase analyses the performance and productivity parameters.

Mike Chase  |  01st September 2020
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Mike Chase
Mike Chase

Mike Chase has four decades of extensive global managerial experience in the Corporate Aviation, commercial...

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Cessna Citation CJ2+ jet in sunset sky

Over the following paragraphs we’ll consider key productivity parameters for the Cessna Citation CJ2+, CJ3+ and the M2 (including payload, range, speed, and cabin size) to establish which aircraft provides the better value in the Light Jet market.

Where does the case for an operator to upsize or downsize lay within a product line? It is hoped that the following jet comparison will help clarify.

Cessna Citation CJ2+ vs CJ3+ vs M2 Comparison Infographic

Cessna Citation CJ2+

The original CJ2 (Model 525A) was produced between 2000 and 2005. In 2006 the Cessna Citation CJ2+ was introduced with updated avionics, increased performance and FADEC controls. In fact, when it was introduced, the CJ2+ came with 17 of the CJ2’s most popular equipment options as standard.

Today, there are 210 wholly owned CJ2+ aircraft in operation worldwide, an additional eight in shared ownership, and five in fractional ownership giving a total global fleet of 223.

Cessna Citation CJ3+

The original CJ3 received FAA type certification in October 2004, ending production ten years later in 2014 when the Cessna Citation CJ3+ was introduced with a number of upgrades. The CJ3+ remains in production today, and is permitted to operate with a single pilot under the US registry only.

When it was introduced to the market, the model offered an additional two feet in cabin length over the CJ2/CJ2+, and the wingspan was extended by three feet.

Today, there are 150 wholly-owned Cessna Citation CJ3+ jets in operation worldwide. A further eight are in shared ownership, and three more are fractionally-owned, giving a total fleet of 161.

Cessna Citation CJ3+ flies over rocky lake

Cessna Citation M2

The Cessna Citation M2 started delivering in 2013 as a replacement for the CJ1+. Its wingtip extensions are too subtle to be called ‘winglets’, and Cessna instead refers to them as ‘swooplets’.

The M2 was the first Light Jet to feature Garmin’s G3000 system flat-panel avionics, which was an evolution of the G1000-based system that was standard in the Citation Mustang and in all of Cessna’s current single-engine turboprop models.

Today there are 239 wholly-owned Citation M2s and 14 more in shared ownership, giving a total fleet of 253 in operation worldwide.

Cessna Citation M2 Private Jet flies in Empty Sky

Payload & Range 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: Cessna Citation CJ2+ vs CJ3+ vs M2 Payload Comparison

Cessna Citation CJ2+ vs CJ3+ vs M2 Payload Comparison

Table A shows the Citation CJ3+ jet's Available Payload with Maximum Fuel to be 820lbs, which is more than the 715lbs for the CJ2+ and the M2’s 514lbs capacity.

Cabin Comparison

Chart A depicts the cabin lengths of the Cessna Citation CJ2+, CJ3+ and M2. Although all three business jets have the same cabin height and width, the CJ3+ (15.67ft) has a greater cabin length than the CJ2+ (13.58ft) and M2 (11ft). The Citation CJ3+ provides more overall cabin volume (286cu.ft) than the CJ2+ (248cu.ft) and the M2 (201cu.ft).

CHART A: Cessna Citation CJ2+ vs CJ3+ vs M2 Cabin Comparison

Cessna Citation CJ2+ vs CJ3+ vs M2 Cabin Comparison

In terms of baggage provision, while the CJ2+ and CJ3+ provide equal external luggage volume (65cu.ft), the Citation M2 offers less (43.1cu.ft). None of the aircraft provide internal luggage space.

Range With Four Pax Comparison

As depicted in Chart B, using Wichita, Kansas as the start point, the Cessna Citation CJ3+ unsurprisingly offers more range coverage (1,825nm) than the Citation CJ2+ (1,538nm) and the Citation M2 (1,183nm), each aircraft flying with four passengers and available fuel.

CHART B: Cessna Citation CJ2+ vs CJ3+ vs M2 Range Comparison

Cessna Citation CJ2+ vs CJ3+ vs M2 Range Comparison

This demonstrates a crucial consideration for operators choosing which jet in the Citation line will fit the majority of their specific mission requirements best.

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-24 engines power the Citation CJ2+, providing 2,490lbst each, and burning 137 gallons of fuel per hour (gph). Similarly, two Williams FJ44-3A engines power the Citation CJ3+, each providing more thrust (2,820lbst) while burning slightly less fuel (133gph) than those on the CJ2+. A pair of William FJ44-1AP engines power the Citation M2, each producing a lower 2,100lbst and a smaller fuel-burn (112gph).

Variable Cost Comparison

The ‘Variable Cost’, illustrated in Chart C, is defined as the estimated cost of fuel expense, maintenance labor expense,  scheduled parts expense, and miscellaneous trip expense (hangar, crew and catering).

CHART C: Cessna Citation CJ2+ vs CJ3+ vs M2 Variable Cost Comparison

Cessna Citation CJ2+ vs CJ3+ vs M2 Operating Cost Comparison

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 CJ2+ shows a higher variable cost at $1,677/hr compared to the CJ3+ at $1,615/hr and the M2 at $1,564/hr.

Table B contains the new prices (per Aircraft Bluebook) for a 2015 model Cessna Citation CJ2+, CJ3+ and M2. 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 CJ2+ vs CJ3+ vs M2 Market Comparison

Cessna Citation CJ2+ vs CJ3+ vs M2 Market Comparison

The Citation CJ2+ had 23 aircraft for sale on the used aircraft market at the time of writing (10.3% of the fleet), while 12 CJ3+ jets and 16 Citation M2s were for sale on the used market, representing 7.5% and 6.3% of their respective fleets.

The average number of used transactions (units sold) per month over the previous 12 months for the Citation CJ2+ is one, while the Citation CJ3+ has an average four, and the M2 five new and used sales monthly. 

Maximum Scheduled Maintenance Equity

Charts D, E and F display the Cessna Citation CJ2+, CJ3+ and M2 respectively. They depict (and project) the Maximum Maintenance Equity each jet has available based on its age.

  • The Maximum Maintenance Equity figure was achieved the day an aircraft came off the production line (since it had not accumulated any utilization toward any maintenance events).
  • The percent of the Maximum Maintenance Equity that an average aircraft will have available, based on its age, assumes:
    - Average annual utilization of 300 flight hours (in the case of the CJ2+), 320 flight hours (CJ3+), and 360 flight hours (M2); and
    - All maintenance is completed when due.

CHART D: Cessna Citation CJ2+ Maximum Maintenance Equity Chart
Cessna Citation CJ2+ Maximum Maintenance Equity Chart

CHART D: Cessna Citation CJ3+ Maximum Maintenance Equity Chart

Cessna Citation CJ3+ Maximum Maintenance Equity Chart

CHART E: Cessna Citation M2 Maximum Maintenance Equity Chart

Cessna Citation M2 Maximum Maintenance Equity Chart

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 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 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 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.

Table C depicts an example of using the MACRS schedule for a 2015- model Citation CJ2+ in private (Part 91) and charter (Part 135) operations over five- and seven-year periods.

TABLE C: Cessna Citation CJ2+ MACRS Tax Depreciation Example

Cessna Citation CJ2+ MACRS Tax Depreciation Example

Table D depicts an example of using the MACRS schedule for a 2015-model Citation CJ3+ in private (Part 91) and charter (Part 135) operations over five- and seven-year periods.

TABLE D: Cessna Citation CJ3+ MACRS Tax Depreciation Example

Cessna Citation CJ3+ MACRS Tax Depreciation Example

Table E depicts an example of using the MACRS schedule for a 2015- model Citation M2 in private (Part 91) and charter (Part 135) operations over five- and seven-year periods.

TABLE E: Cessna Citation M2 MACRS Tax Depreciation Example

Cessna Citation M2 MACRS Tax Depreciation Example

Asking Prices & Quantity

The 23 Citation CJ2+ business jets available on the used aircraft market at the time of writing showed asking prices for 11 aircraft ranging from $2.575m to $3.88m. By comparison, 12 Cessna Citation CJ3+ jets were for sale and five showed asking prices ranging between $5.2m and $6.3m. Finally, of the 16 Citation M2s listed for sale, three had asking prices ranging from $3.5m to $3.995m.

While each 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.

Productivity Comparison

The points in Chart G are centered on the same three aircraft. 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

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

CHART G: Cessna Citation CJ2+ vs CJ3+ vs M2 Productivity Comparison

Cessna Citation CJ2+ vs CJ3+ vs M2 Productivity Comparison

The Citation CJ3+ offers a larger cabin volume and longer range (with four passengers), but at a higher price. While the Citation M2 and CJ2+ are aligned perfectly for move-up opportunities (as Chart G shows), each offers great value in its own market. 

Although the Citation M2 trails on the productivity chart, it can be acquired at the lowest price of the three aircraft, and for operators whose typical mission need fits within its lower range and payload capabilities, it provides a very attractive option with a lower operating cost.

And though the CJ2+ is no longer in production, it was produced in sufficient numbers to ensure a good supply of parts and maintenance expertise exist to keep would-be buyers of pre-owned CJ2+ aircraft flying for a number of years yet. Good CJ2+ jets on the used market may provide an even lower price point for those willing to operate an older aircraft.

The Move-Up Question

Though not every owner/operator moves up into a larger jet, for those who do the question becomes what their upgrade path will be? Will they stay in the Cessna Citation family (for example) or seek a different aircraft make?

According to JETNET, 52% of the owners selling an M2 as of this writing opted to upgrade, with 25 operators choosing the CJ3+ as the aircraft to upgrade into. By comparison, 38% of those selling a CJ2+ have done so with an upgrade path planned – the most popular being the CJ4 (17) and the next most popular being the original CJ3 (13).

In Summary

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

Operators should weigh up their mission requirements precisely when picking which option is the best for them. Ultimately, there is plenty for a prospective buyer to consider when deciding over which performance criteria is better suited to them in an aircraft.

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Read More About: Cessna | Cessna Citation | Textron Aviation | Cessna Citation M2 | Compare Jets | Cessna Citation CJ2+ | Cessna Citation CJ3+

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