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On the eve of the opening day of the 2023 European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE), Textron Aviation unveiled the latest member of its Cessna Citation business jet family — the Citation Ascend.
Built upon the success of the Citation 560XL series, the Ascend was designed in response to nearly two decades of customer feedback and features an all-new cockpit, improved performance, and an enhanced cabin.
“For business jets alone, one out of every three around the world is a Citation, and there’s none more flown around the world than the 560XL,” said Textron president and CEO Ron Draper during the company’s media day in Wichita. “Today we are very excited to announce our latest innovation. . . . The future of flight is found in our new Citation Ascend aircraft.”
The nine-passenger Ascend, powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW545D engines, features Garmin G5000 avionics, which allows customers operating other Citation aircraft to have a common flight deck, Textron said. “An important addition to the Ascend” is the built-in autothrottle technology, which helps reduce pilot workload and provides flight envelope protection.
The cockpit also features three 14-inch high-res displays with split-screen capabilities; synthetic vision technology to render obstacles like mountains or terrain on the display; dual flight management systems; cockpit voice and data satellite transceiver to make satellite calls from the cockpit; new Garmin weather detection and avoidance technology; and an optional second Iridium data radio and CPDLC, which would provide customers with more direct routing between North America and Europe.
According to Jimmy Beeson, Textron’s senior manager of technical marketing, the PW545D FADEC engines were designed to deliver better fuel efficiency and increased thrust, made possible by new materials and technology including a high-pressure compressor, an enhanced single-stage high-pressure turbine module, and an upgraded exhaust mixer.
“The engine runs cooler and burns less fuel in certain conditions,” noted Beeson.
The Ascend will also have the ability to fly on sustainable aviation fuel – which is an important capability when considering the aviation industry’s goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Beeson told reporters that “preliminary performance targets” have indicated that the Ascend will be capable of a 1,900-nautical-mile range with four passengers at high-speed cruise power, with an estimated maximum range of 2,100 nm; cruise at 441 knots; and the ability to climb direct to 45,000 feet. Textron expects the Ascend to have a full-fuel payload of 850 pounds, and a maximum payload of 2,390 lbs.
Scott Howell, Textron’s director of global field operations, shared that — taking customer feedback into account — the OEM has designed the Ascend with “cleaner wingtip lines and edges, all LED lighting, and a pylon work light over the baggage area” for easier loading at night.
Moreover, the Ascend will offer an unattended auxiliary power unit (APU) — used to heat and cool the aircraft quietly using low fuel. “We understand that one of the most important ownership considerations for the customers is profitability,” said Beeson. “The unattended APU feature on the aircraft allows the pilots to prepare the flight efficiently.”
In an effort to reduce the aircraft’s scheduled maintenance downtime, the Citation Ascend boasts better maintenance intervals over other midsize business jets. Textron said it is expecting to offer an 18-month (800-hour) airframe maintenance interval; a 6,000-hour time-between-engine overhaul; and a 3,000-hour hot section inspection.
“The aircraft also will include more standard equipment to support troubleshooting,” noted Howell.
Inside the Ascend’s cabin, customers will find a flat floor, which Textron says is a “game-changer when it comes to comfort.” The flat floor design provides passengers with “more room to swivel their seats, stretch their legs, and comfortably move around the cabin.”
The cabin windows are nearly 15 percent larger compared to the Ascend’s predecessors, and window shades — along with cabin lighting, temperature, and onboard entertainment — can be wirelessly controlled.
As well, Textron said the interior is “fully customizable,” and the materials used are 100 percent sustainable and biodegradable.
The OEM confirmed that it will be certifying the Citation Ascend through an amended type certificate, and first deliveries are expected to take place in early 2025.
CEO Draper said the company has “an existing XL prototype that we’ve been flying some of [the new] components on already.” However, the first flight of the conforming Ascend has not yet happened. Details regarding the timing of the first flight have not been publicly shared.
Despite all of this, Textron has begun taking orders for the new aircraft — which is priced at US$16.7 million — and is “already seeing strong demand.”
Textron said a Citation Ascend interior mock-up will be on display at its booth during EBACE, which is being held May 23 to 25 at the Palexpo convention center in Geneva, Switzerland.