The Cessna Citation Bravo is an easy-to-handle light jet that can carry up to 7 passengers. This is a guide to the Bravo for those considering a small jet.
A pre-owned Cessna Citation Bravo averages between $1.9 million and $2.5 million depending on its age and condition. It is powered by two FADEC-fitted Pratt & Whitney Canada 530A engines that produce 2,887 lbs of thrust each, burning 148 gallons per hour. At FL450 it can cruise at 400 KTAS.
As someone who’s been involved in nearly every aspect of the business aviation industry since I left school, I am intimately familiar with the entire Cessna Citation family, including the Citation Bravo, an aircraft I have limited stick time on and which is a favorite of students I’ve taught in the past.
The Cessna Citation Bravo first flew on April 25, 1995, and was certified under 14 CFR 25’s Transport Category in August of the following year. Customers began taking delivery of the aircraft in February 1997. Unlike many of the other Citations, the Bravo is not certified for single pilot operations.
Cessna brought this plane in as a viable replacement and continuation of the Citation II family (itself a replacement and continuation of the original Citation I), giving it upgraded engines that resulted in a quieter cabin, better fuel consumption, and better speed.
Because of this, many do refer to the Bravo as the “Citation II Bravo”. Both are the exact same aircraft; it’s merely a matter of personal choice which pilots use to refer to the aircraft.
As such, the Bravo is still officially part of the Model 550 family (the model number given to the aforementioned Citation I). Pilots typed in the Bravo will receive their rating for the 550, giving them the ability to fly both the Citation II and the Citation Bravo.
The Bravo ended production in 1994 after producing 336 aircraft and was replaced in production by the newer and more popular CJ3, a member of the CitationJet/M2 sub-family of the Citation line.
Cessna’s goal in advancing the Bravo into production was to upgrade the engines and reduce the entry cost for those looking to step into a small jet. It was designed for the corporate and air charter market.
The Cessna Citation Bravo is a seven-passenger jet that fits the middle-ground no-frills small-medium jet market, one step up from the very light jets (VLJs). While still able to access small airports with short runways, the Bravo is designed for increased load and rapid turnarounds.
Engineers had four objectives they needed to accomplish with the Bravo:
- Low entry cost for first-time buyers and competitive operation cost (relative to other jets like the Learjet 31 or Hawker 400)
- Make it appealing for pilots/operators of piston and turboprops looking to scale upwards
- Good handling for owner operation (handling like a GA aircraft for the former and to help…)
- Increased Safety and Operability
To the untrained eye, like the older Citations, considerable work had gone into developing the wing and its flight characteristics. In wanting the plane to fly faster and consume fewer resources, they had to delay the onset of a mach wave. For this, engineers opted for a supercritical wing.
A new NACA airfoil was used and the Center of Gravity (CG) was moved further forward giving the aircraft the benefit of two lifting surfaces - the main wing and the tail elevator. The resulting reduction in induced drag aided in the increase of lift-to-drag ratio and reduced fuel burn.
As part of their objectives to access a market of piston-engine pilots, they wanted to be sure that the jet was able to take off and land in short and unpaved runways. The Bravo is one of few that can land in such conditions, opening up a vast number of airports that it can access, and closing the last-mile gap significantly.
The Bravo was ahead of its time when it was first released with an unswept tapered wing and an aspect ratio of 7.8. The taper is visually perceptible and provides for superior handling at altitude while allowing good in-ground-effect characteristics.
The wing also reduces in thickness toward the tip going from a 14% thickness ratio at the root to a 12% ratio at the tip. The Bravo has no winglets.
Having the wing as close to the ground as the Bravo does is something you should remember when you first fly the plane. Stick to the numbers. It will want to lift-off ahead of Vr and it will not want to land even one knot above Vref. So make sure you plan.
The Bravo saw the new trailing gear design implemented in the landing gear system. Instead of absorbing the impact directly through the strut as it did in the old days, the trailing gear dissipates the impact energy through a pivot and dissipates the energy through the shock absorbers. It results in a smoother landing and gives the strut longevity.
The passenger cabin seats between six and eight passengers depending on the configuration. Club seating for four passengers plus two seats in the rear and one seat between the main cabin and the flight deck allows for seven passengers in normal seat arrangements.
The lav can also be converted to a functioning passenger seat if needed with a proper cushion and safety harness. Passengers are also treated to twelve rectangular portals for a bright airy feel in the cabin.
The Bravo, unlike many of the other later model Citations, is not a T-tail, which was done to escape the jet exhaust. In the Bravo, the immersion of the horizontal tail in the jet's wake was accomplished by giving the horizontal surfaces a dihedral. It’s another reason you should not attempt a high deck angle near the runway to bleed airspeed, the stabilizers will be rendered unpredictable this low to the ground and shielded by the wings.
Additionally, for longitudinal stability, engineers added a pair of ventral fins that give the Bravo its characteristic look. The ventral fins made the aircraft feel like it had a larger vertical fin but without the added weight of a larger surface.
The supercritical wing is designed with a single-slot flap on the trailing edge. There are no leading-edge modifications to the wing design. The wing also houses spoilers that act as air brakes.
The elevators, rudder, and aileron are controlled manually via links, cables, and pulleys. One of the unique elements of the Bravo is that it is certified for steep approaches allowing it to land in airports like Telluride (KTEX), Lugano (LSZA), and the infamously difficult London City (EGLC).
The Cessna Citation Bravo uses a pair of Pratt and Whitney Canada 530A engines that are flat-rated for 2,287 lb f.
The 530A engines have a single-stage fan with a two-stage low-pressure turbine and a single axial compressor driven by a single high-pressure turbine. The engine is thermodynamically rated for 2,887 lb f of force, but it is limited for use in the Bravo.
This simply means that the full power of the engine is restricted for structural and aerodynamic reasons. This also means that you will get a constant thrust output even as the air gets thinner while you ascend. This is the reason you can get the Bravo up to FL400 in less than thirty minutes with a 2500 ft/min rate of climb in the early stages of the climb.
There is, certainly, an upper thermodynamic limit of how much an engine can produce, given its design including the compression ratio, the fuel it uses, and the atmospheric conditions.
The engine has a 3.24:1 bypass ratio and was based on the design of the Pratt and Whittney Canada JT15D, the engine also used on the Citation I, Citation V (also a derivative of the original Citation II) and the Hawker 400.
It has a number of advanced designs and construction processes that increase reliability and power. The main departure from the typical jet engines that preceded it is that the main compressor is milled from a single block of titanium rather than having fan blades attached to a core.
They are not managed digitally. Instead, they are equipped with a hydromechanical system that senses the throttle position and evaluates the pressure and temperature of the exhaust along with a number of other parameters before it meters fuel into the combustion chamber.
The Bravo is equipped with thrust reversers which helps to reduce the Bravo’s landing distance compared to other jets its size.
The Bravo is certified up to 45,000 feet. It is also able to get up to that altitude without having to step up. It takes the Bravo just under half an hour to attain its ceiling. However, the Bravo is not designed to be at its fastest or at its most economical at that altitude.
Based on its weight, the top speed of M 0.7 happens at FL350 based on standard temperature and pressure. Its best economy is achieved at FL430 or higher.
The fuel it burns to get to FL350 is 490 pounds while taking 18 minutes to reach under standard conditions. The Bravo carries 4,824 lbs of fuel when filled fully. By the time it gets to FL350 it will have 4,334 lbs giving it a total weight of 14,310 pounds.
In this configuration, the fuel flow is 922 lbs per hour. Giving it 3.5 hours of endurance with enough fuel for the descent phrase and landing reserves.
The best way to fly the Bravo is to fly it by fuel flow. Remember this aircraft does not have many of the standard systems onboard newer jets, like FADEC, so it is not going to be doing the measurements for you. N1 settings are typically what pilots use to set the power. But if you want to manage the fuel on a Bravo, or any other jet that is not FADEC-driven, then fly it by the fuel flow meter.
Setting the fuel flow to 922 pounds at FL350 will give you M 0.66. If you set the fuel flow to 722 lbs per hour, your N1 will drop to 85% while your speed will drop to M 0.6.
The maximum operating speed for the Bravo varies according to altitude. Mmo above 27,900 feet is M 0.7 (indicated,) although the plane has been tested to be able to exceed that speed in a nose-over maneuver. But the aerodynamic stresses on the aircraft exceed the structural strength of the aircraft and can result in catastrophic failure.
Vmo between 8,000 and 27,900 feet is 275 KIAS while Vmo from Seal Level to 8,000 feet is 270 KIAS.
Two other speeds you have to think about, especially in any multi engine aircraft is the Minimum Controllable Airspeed, Vmc. The Bravo has two speeds related to this. Vmc at altitude is 78 KIAS while Vmc on the ground is 89 KIAS.
For an older plane, the Bravo has a comparatively higher crosswind component. It has been demonstrated by pilots that a take off and landing is possible in crosswinds up to 24 knots. However as with most jets, the aircraft is not certified to exceed a 10 knot tailwind.
The Citation Bravo’s Zero Fuel Weight (ZFW) of 11,300 pounds gives you 3,500 pounds of fuel under max payload conditions. It takes almost 500 pounds to climb to FL350 leaving 3,000 pounds of fuel for cruise.
The Bravo has a Max Ramp Weight (MRW) of 15,000 pounds with an MTOW of 14,800 giving you 200 pounds of fuel for ground operation. The Bravo also needs to be down to 13,500 pounds before it can land. There are a number of reasons for this including structural considerations as well as aerodynamic ones.
The Vref speed required to make a landing under greater-than MLW will cause the plane to act differently in ground effect. It also alters the approach speed which increases the momentum you will be carrying as you cross the threshold.
Aerodynamically-speaking, it will be precarious. However, structurally, it is also a problem since the struts are built for a certain impact level. Even though the wings have three spars and employ a cantilever design, it will be structurally compromising.
One more issue with payload excess is that the aircraft has a conventional tail that gets less effective in ground effect. It also reduces efficiency in high angles of attack. Managing speeds on approach in this scenario will require an increased angle of attack and risk the reduction in horizontal tail efficiency.
In an emergency, the Bravo makes allowances for landing above Max Landing Weight, but that should not be the routine. If practicing pattern work, keep the take-off weight below the max landing weight.
At altitude, it is safe to use a rule of thumb to use an average of 900 pounds per hour of fuel burn. This gives you an endurance of two and a half hours if you consider landing with VFR reserves.
IFR reserves require 1,170 pounds in the tank when you land (assuming an IFR day). This results in 1830 pounds of fuel left for cruise and descent. The flight with a full payload of 1,150 pounds, traveling 700 nautical miles would only take two hours. The average fuel burn for a two-hour flight is (including, climb, cruise and descent) 148 gallons per hour.
The Citation Bravo, while being ahead of the industry when it was first produced, has older technology driving its current existence. This is reflected in its pricing. Anyone in the market for a 4 to 6 person jet and is willing to conduct modifications and upgrades should find a low airframe-time, low cycle-count aircraft. It will be a good platform to build upon.
Direct Operating Cost
There are two things to note with this older model Citation Bravo. The first is that the purchase and maintenance model used in the tables above assumes that the aircraft is purchased without a loan. This cuts down on finance costs and keeps the cash flow positive over a greater demand spectrum.
The second thing of note is that there is a low depreciation over the horizon of ownership which we assume here to be three years. Looking at the average price for the models, we are able to see that the average depreciation of the sale price over three years is approximately $150,000.
Most of the value of the Bravo has been fully depreciated and there does not seem to be much room for it to go lower in the next three years. This makes it potentially a great buy for those looking to avoid the heavy depreciation suffered by most aircraft.
The cash flow model for the hourly cost also does not take on the depreciation allocation annually.
With Fixed Costs totaling $278,000 and DOC totaling $822,960 for 400 hours, the total annual cost to operate the Citation Bravo is $1,100,960 which works out to be $2,752 per flight hour.
There are also two things you need to consider in the pricing of the purchase that has not been discussed in the tables above. The first is that the possibility of overhaul increases every year and that is one of the reasons the price of a Bravo can be this affordable. So when budgeting for purchase, include the amount of time left on major repairs when you take possession of the aircraft.
At the way it is priced now, the Citation Bravo positions itself as a good aircraft to be the first jet for a group of people who create a partnership and combine resources to make the purchase. A professional crew should be engaged since this is not a single-pilot aircraft and it does need proper training and currency of experience to fly well.
Having eight owners reduces the financial burden while reducing risk. Assuming they make a purchase at the top of the range and set aside $500,00 for refurbishments and maintenance work, each individual would only bear $375,000 upfront and have the right to 50 hours a year for an annual cost less than $150,000.
About THE AUTHOR
After spending years watching every video I could find about flying, I finally scratched the itch and got my pilots license. Now I fly every chance I get, and share the information I learn, here.Read More About Joe Haygood