Citation Sovereign | Article

Citation Sovereign Up Close

The Citation Sovereign, which was manufactured beginning in 2004, was Cessna’s return to their roots: the Citation Sovereign follows the simple, no-frills design plan that has been the mainstay of the Citation line since its beginning in 1972. The simple design of the Citation Sovereign is especially apparent when compared to the Citation X, which immediately preceded the Sovereign chronologically but has little crossover. Despite Cessna’s intentional focus on simplicity and reliability, the bread-and-butter approach to private jet design, the Sovereign still sports many new features never before used on the Citation line.

The Citation Sovereign’s structures are almost exclusively made from aluminum alloys, which is no surprise for a Citation business jet. The wings have a modest 12 degree sweep. The swept-wing design that has been a familiar sight in the Citation line since the introduction of the Citation III. The wings used on the Sovereign are the longest and largest to be used on any Citation thus far. They reach a span of 63.3 feet and have a total surface area of 516 square feet. Wings of this size are typically only seen on super-midsized jets, but they have proven to be well-suited to the versatile Sovereign.

The Pratt and Whitney Canada PW306C turbofan engines used on the Sovereign are more well-matured than most wines. Although the Sovereign is the first Citation to use the PW306, it has clocked thousands of hours on other private jets. The PW306 is an evolution of the PW305 model, which was used on both the Lear 60 and the Hawker 1000. The PW306 engine, which has improved high-altitude and thrust performance than its predecessor, was used on two different private jets, including the Gulfstream G200.

The Citation Sovereign uses the exact same cross section as the both the Citation Excel and the Citation X. This cross section should be familiar to any former Citation owner, as it is the same cross-section that has been in use since the Citation III. The cabin itself has been stretched longer than the cabin of any other private jet on the Citation line to 25.3 feet. The cabin is 5.5 feet wide at shoulder-height and 3.9 feet wide at the base of the cabin. The ceiling is 5.7 feet high. Total cabin volume is 620 cubic feet. The cabin is typically configured for nine passengers, but three additional passenger seats may be added as desired. Baggage space is split between an internal baggage compartment of 24 cubic feet and an external compartment of 100 cubic feet. The external compartment meets Class C standards; it is, heated, and has a fire detection and extinguishing system. The two-zone climate controls are reportedly excellent, it cooled a cabin by over 30° in just twenty minutes. The Air Cycle Machine can be powered before takeoff and during low-altitude flight by its own APU. At higher altitudes the cabin’s temperature and pressurization is regulated by engine bleed air. The cabin is lighted by low-heat LEDs, which have a design life of 100,000 hours. The addition of engine fan ducts and improved cabin soundproofing decreases cabin noise.

The Citation Sovereign uses a Honeywell Primus Epic Avionics suite. The cockpit of the Sovereign, for the first time in the Citation series, is almost all glass. Four large-format plat-panel displays replace most manual gauges and controls. A standby instrument display panel is installed in the center of the cockpit. Power for the avionics system is supplied by a split electrical bus system. Each system is powered separately, and the two can be tied together in the case of one power generator’s failure. Optional additions to the avionics system include a passenger briefing system, a flight data recorder, and cabin audio/visual systems.

Clearly, the Citation Sovereign looks great standing alone: but how does it measure up to another jet of its class? The Hawker 850XP is a worthy contender for this competition.

Cabin size varies slightly between the two private jets: the Sovereign’s cabin is about four feet longer, while the Hawker 850XP’s is a full five inches wider. The Sovereign has significantly more baggage capacity (124 cubic feet compared to the 850XP’s 50 cubic feet).

The Sovereign takes off in 3,640 feet from a sea level runway (or in 4,950 feet from a runway at an altitude of 5,000 feet on a 77* F day), and still climbs to 37,000 feet in fourteen minutes — impressive by any standard. The Hawker 850XP is more sluggish on both accounts: it requires 5,032 feet of runway at sea level and 7,952 feet under the same high and hot conditions previously mentioned — that’s 1,392 feet and 3,002 feet longer than the Sovereign’s runway requirements, respectively. Furthermore, the Hawker 850XP’s climb to altitude (37,000 feet) takes five minutes longer than the same climb does for the Citation Sovereign. For this round, the Sovereign has the advantage.

But before you give up on the Hawker 850XP, consider how the private jets measure up to each other once they are at altitude. The Hawker 850XP wins in terms of cruise speed. Its long-range cruise speed is 402 ktas, while the Citation Sovereign’s long-range cruise is 387 ktas. 15 ktas may seem insignificant but every bit helps. The playing field is more level when the high-speed cruise performance of each private jet is compared, but the Hawker 850XP still wins by a small margin. The high-speed cruise of the 850XP is 448 ktas, a modest 2 ktas more than the Sovereign.   In summary, the Hawker 850XP zips around slightly more quickly than does the Citation Sovereign—but how fast and how much fuel on a typical trip?

Let’s use a 1,000 nautical mile trip with four passengers and standard conditions for comparison. The trip would begin as expected, with the Sovereign beating the Hawker 850XP’s takeoff field length by about 900 feet. Despite the aforementioned differences in climb and cruise speeds, the flight times would be exactly equal at 2 hours, 22 minutes. The flights are actually quite similar at first glance, until fuel burn is factored into the equation: the Citation Sovereign would burn 3,750 pounds (568 gallons) of fuel, while the Hawker 850XP would burn 4,387 pounds (665 gallons).

In summary, the Citation Sovereign has a definite edge on the Hawker 850XP in terms of performance — but consider the cost savings before passing a verdict. In 2006 dollars, the Citation Sovereign’s purchase price was $15.5 million, while the Hawker 850XP was $13.8 million. However you look at it, $1.7 million is too significant a difference to be ignored. So how does the Sovereign really measure up to its peer? That answer depends on which you value more — high performance or an additional couple million in your pocket.