The Cessna Citation CJ3 is a favorite among light jet owners for its features and capabilities. This is a comprehensive guide to the CJ3.

A pre-owned Cessna Citation CJ3 averages between $5 million and $7 million depending on TBOH, TT, and the avionics package. The CJ3 is powered by twin Williams International FJ44-3C engines that produce a total of 5,920 lb f while consuming 110 gallons per hour at FL450.

Being a CFII and a corporate pilot, I’ve flown quite a few different civil, GA and corporate aircraft in my time. Although I’ve only had limited stick time onboard the CJ3, I’ll be honest and say it’s certainly one of my favorites.

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Background

The Cessna Citation CJ3 is a no-frills light jet specifically designed to be a point-to-point rapid transport. With take-off and landing distances as low as 2900 feet and 3100 feet respectively, the CJ3 has the ability to access smaller airports, avoiding congestion and reducing ground travel times to a passenger's final destination.

Cessna believed that the market for light jets, able to get in and out of airports used primarily by piston-engine twins and singles and able to make short hops with 2 to 4 hours of endurance. That was the reasoning behind the Citation series.

Cessna announced the CJ3 in September 2002 and was certified under 14 CFR 23’s commuter category in October 2004 before entering service in December 2004. It is one of a handful of jets that is certified for single-pilot operation.

While the CJ3 is the marketing brand name for the sixth generation of Citation jets, it can also be referred to by its internal Cessna designation, the Model 525B, though most even within the company still refer to it as the CJ3.

Specifications

The CJ3 is slightly larger than its predecessor, the CJ2. Yet, it is more effective. The CJ3 is designed to carry up to 8 passengers, or six comfortably with fully articulating club seats, depending on the option the purchaser stipulates when ordering from the factory.

The cabin has fourteen windows giving passengers a well-illuminated environment, with the option of drawing the blinds if they prefer and foldable tables and charging ports for devices. Due to the popularity of the model, there are numerous aftermarket options for upgraded seating arrangements.

Specifications Cessna Citation CJ3
Length 50.17 ft
Height 15.17 ft
Wingspan 53.3 ft
Cabin Length 14.1 ft
Cabin Width 4.8 ft
Cabin Height 4.8 ft
Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) 13870 lbs (6291 kg)
Maximum Landing Weight (MLW) 12750 lbs (5783 kg)
Operating Empty Weight (OEW) 8585 lbs (3894 kg)
Fuel Capacity 4710 lbs (2136 kg)
Useful Payload 5530 lbs (2508 kg)
Payload With Full Fuel 820 lbs (372 kg)
Maximum Payload 1925 lbs (873 kg)
Rate of Climb 4478 fpm (22.75 m/s)
Rate of Climb (One Engine Inoperable) 1090 fpm
Max Speed Mach 0.737 (772 km/h; 480 mph; 417 kts)
Normal cruise Mach 0.737 (772 km/h; 480 mph; 417 kts)
Service Ceiling 45000 ft (13,716 m)

Aerodynamics

The CJ3 has an all-metal tubular fuselage with a cantilevered low wing and T-tail structure. The wings use a laminar flow airfoil, a five-degree dihedral, and a 0.3 taper ratio. This was a significant change from its predecessor’s design, improving the lift-to-drag ratio, thereby increasing range and payload while reducing fuel burn.

The CJ3’s design upgrade from the CJ2 was undertaken to extend the capabilities of an otherwise proven design by using better engines and digital technology.

While the aircraft dimensions are slightly increased from the previous model, the changes resulted in an increased payload capacity, better endurance, and improved range.

Weight and Balance

The CJ3 has an increased MTOW of 13,870 lbs compared to the CJ2’s 12,375 lbs. The Basic Operating Weight of the CJ3 is 8,185 lbs vs the CJ2’s 7,410. The difference of 775 lbs in empty weight compared to the difference of 1,495 in MTOW is an exhibit of improved performance and design of the CJ3.

The CJ3 has a maximum ramp weight of 14,070 pounds giving it two hundred pounds to burn on the ground. This is beneficial for fuel optimization when departing large airports during peak traffic times. I’ve been stuck in busy airports and have heard aircraft in line for take-off requesting to return to the ramp because they burned through their fuel.

The CJ3 has a zero fuel weight of 10,500 pounds, allowing it to carry 3,370 pounds of fuel when carrying maximum payload. The CJ3 can also carry a maximum of 4,710 pounds of fuel but would have to cut the payload down by 1,340 pounds.

With CJ3’s Basic Operating Weight at 8,185 pounds, which assumes 400 pounds of crew and supplies, and maximum fuel of 4710 pounds, that results in 12,895 pounds leaving 975 pounds of payload. This max range loading allows me to carry between four and six passengers, depending on their weight along with moderate baggage.

As such, if I prioritize payload over distance, I can carry 8 passengers (and one more in the co-pilot’s seat) assuming each passenger weighs an average of 180 pounds and brings along 30 pounds of luggage resulting in 1,680 pounds of payload. That makes my aircraft 9,865 pounds, still below my zero fuel weight. This will allow me to carry 4005 pounds of fuel.

Jets burn different amounts of fuel during different phases of flight. Typically, the first hour of a CJ3’s flight burns an average of 150 gallons of fuel (excluding taxiing) – this is an average, actual burn rates depend on flight conditions.

The first hour of flight uses the most fuel compared to any other phase of flight. The second hour of flight consumes much less, depending on your cruise altitude.

I typically pull it back to about 95% N1 so as to not exceed MMO (Maximum Mach Number) of 0.737 at FL450. At that altitude with that setting, I burn about 375 pounds per hour per engine or a total of 750 pounds per hour. That’s 112 gallons per hour flying at 0.732 Mach.

It makes a huge difference in the altitude you choose when flying the CJ3. Dropping down to FL350 may not seem like it will impose a large fuel penalty but it does. Fuel burn jumps to 1500 pounds per hour, double what it was at FL450, halving the aircraft’s endurance.

Descent is typically done with a 53% N1 setting. That results in approximately 2000 feet per minute. You would cover about 90 miles in that time, so your Top of Descent for a 2000-fpm rate is about 80 nautical miles out. This gives you a fuel burn of 110 pounds and will take you about 15 minutes to get to the Final Approach Fix, assuming no other vectoring.

Stability and Control

The CJ3, as with the other aircraft in the CJ series, is a stable workhorse. The CJs are all designed with single-pilot operation in mind, and as such, the design of control systems, including the engine management, avionics, and automation have all been integrated into the design and specifications.

The CJ3 is aerodynamically stable. Its dihedral, sweep back, and large vertical stabilizer give it longitudinal as well as directional stability. When properly trimmed, even at minimum controllable airspeed or in the midst of a stall, the aircraft remains docile.

Controls are easy to handle. Steep turns do not require a heavy hand, as do high-angle-of-attack flights during MCA. Single-engine operation which has a max ceiling of 26,250 feet does not exert too much difficulty for rudder or yoke input.

With the power plants at the back of the plane instead of out on the wings, the thrust line is fairly close to the centerline of the longitudinal axis of the aircraft resulting in a short moment arm which the large vertical tail surface is more than capable of countering.

Avionics

The CJ3 is designed for single-pilot operation but comes with a flight deck fully equipped for two.

The avionics package installed on the CJ3 is the tried and trusted Rockwell Collins ProLine 21 system which stresses situational awareness and workflow management to a much higher degree than its predecessors.

The key to single-pilot operation is not just about backing up the PIC during emergencies and critical phases of flight but also designed to keep the pilot performing as a manager and overseer of systems and flight parameters.

I typically sit back with my coffee and watch the systems and navigation unfold as I let the avionics and autopilot do the work. It leaves me alert and fresh to handle the terminal area at my destination during rush hour.

The avionics include visual displays of the aircraft during approach and even overlays the position on airport diagrams with pretty good accuracy. SIDs and STARs are easily called up and displayed on the 8 x 10-inch PFD, or the 8 x 10-inch MFD, giving you a powerful tool to enhance situational awareness and be certain that all the procedures are followed.

You even have the option of overlaying boundaries and geographical features, as well as airspace and airways. What I like is that it's not just the visuals that orient the crew but also that the information can be tied into the FMS that's part of the avionics package, so you can tie it to the autopilot as well.

Besides navigation, checklists are easily activated with weight and balance information keyed directly into the computer resulting in the automatic calculation of the various speeds needed, like V1, Vr, V2, and Vref.

Fuel Burn

The CJ3’s Williams FJ44-3A engines provide a static thrust of 2960 lb f each. It is flat-rated to 72 degrees F with a five-minute continuous take-off power limit for dual-engine operation and a ten-minute limit for single-engine operation. This takes careful planning when coming out of high altitude airports or ones surrounded by mountainous terrain.

The FJ44-3A is a turbofan with a 2.8:1 bypass ratio, giving it an improved noise profile while allowing it to generate sufficient power to allow it to operate at FL450. Cessna engineers also located the engines as far aft as possible to reduce cabin noise levels.

A significant advantage of the FJ44 is its 5000-hour TBO which allows the aircraft to be operational over a longer period of time and allows the cost of overhauls to be amortized across a longer horizon thereby reducing the hourly operating cost of the aircraft.

What I like about the FJ44-3A is the climb profile. Getting up to my final altitude as quickly as possible gets me to my destination faster and with less fuel burned, as you saw in the previous section.

The CJ3 takes me to FL450 in 27 minutes. In that almost-half hour it takes to get to FL450, the CJ3 burns 600 pounds of fuel. But that’s worth it since once you are up at your Top of Climb, you can set it to cruise (95% N1 as mentioned above) and enjoy the 750-pound/hour burn rate.

You can average the first hour of flight in a CJ3 to be (0.5 hours x 750 lbs) + 600 lbs. = 975 pounds of fuel burned in the first hour, or approximately 145 gallons per hour plus a five gallon per hour fudge factor gives you a good rule of thumb of 150 gph.

Performance

Even at the MTOW, setting the throttle to the take-off detent does push you back into the seat. The throttles are responsive and the CJ3 does seem to be incredibly powerful from the limited stick time I have on the model.

The trailing link main gear construction allows for a smooth ride down the runway for the passengers. The CJ3 is not designed for soft fields and unpaved surfaces.

Takeoff

For a light jet that can potentially carry 8 passengers, take-off distance on a dry runway and zero wind on a standard day at sea level is 3,950 feet to clear a 35-foot obstacle. These are the best conditions possible. But it shows the power and performance of the CJ3 since this is computed at MTOW. By comparison, departing with just 11,000 pounds will only require 2,900 feet to clear the same obstacle.

With MTOW, the Decision speed, V1, is typically 115 knots indicated airspeed. Rotation speed, Vr, is 121 kias, and Safety speed, V2, is 129 kias. An engine failure before Decision Speed, mandates an aborted takeoff, with throttles to idle and full braking. The CJ3’s Balanced Field length is 3,180 feet.

The CJ3 has a max crosswind of 21 knots. I’ve taken off under these conditions and note that there is still a lot of control available to keep the aircraft over the center line even in ground effect with the gear still extended.

CJ3s have the option to take off with zero or fifteen degrees of flaps. It is really at the pilot’s discretion which they want to use but the decision should be based on the second stage of the climb rather than the first stage of the take-off roll.

Using fifteen degrees of flaps results in a shorter take-off roll, since you don’t need as much airspeed to generate the lift you need to achieve a positive rate of climb after rotation. The increased camber of the wing gives you more lift. But you will be slower in the second stage climb. With zero flaps, the opposite is true.

For instance, all else being equal, at MTOW on a standard day with zero wind, V1 with zero flaps is 115 KIAS. However, V1 with 15 degrees of flaps 102 KIAS. Vr with zero flaps is 121 KIAS while Vr with fifteen degrees of flaps is 105 KIAS.

In the fifteen-degree flap situation, the aircraft would need 3,180 feet to clear a 35-foot fence. While with zero flaps it would need 3,850 feet. The way to determine a flap-or-no flap take off for the CJ3 is therefore not about the runway performance. If it were, the answer is clear, you’d be better off using flaps for take-off.

When it comes to the CJ3, and most other small jets, the decision to use flaps for take-off is more about the performance of the aircraft in the second segment climb rather than the take-off roll.

Approach and Landing

While approaches are docile, getting the right power setting makes it feel like the aircraft is on rails as it follows the glide slope down – and this is with the autopilot off. Remember that the CJ3 does not have thrust reversers, so getting down at the right speed is important, as such N1 settings are key.

Remember that the CJ3 has laminar flow wings and a fairly long span, so always remember to bleed off as much energy as possible before intercepting the glide slope. I’ve been in situations where the plane kept floating in ground effect for some time.

The maximum landing weight for the CJ3 is 12,750 pounds. That’s 1,120 pounds below MTOW, so just remember that if you have a problem that compels you to land soon after take off, you’d have to burn off some fuel before making the attempt. CJ3s can’t dump fuel.

Instead you would have to fly around and burn it off which troubleshoot and sort out your problem before returning with your approved landing weight.

Landing with 12,750 pounds during ISA conditions requires 2,770 feet of runway with full flaps and zero wind. Returning to the airport after a flight, with IFR reserves still intact, at 9,500 pounds, requires 2,200 feet using full flaps. Just a five-hundred-foot difference. Vref at max landing weight is 108 KIAS while its 98 KIAS at 9,500 pounds.

If you do it right, landing distances are actually significantly shorter in real-life conditions than what the manual declares. I’ve turned off before the 1500-foot marker more than a few times after touching down at the numbers.

The CJ3 stalls at 86 kias with the stick-shaker making it a point to remind you that you are not where you should be speed-wise. There is also a stall horn that activates ten knots above stall. When flown correctly, you will not activate the stall horn in the flare before touchdown.

Speed

The Cessna Citation CJ3 has a Maximum Mach that you must not exceed for structural reasons. Because of the laminar flow wings, the CJ3 tends to accelerate toward MMO at the top of the climb unless the throttles are retarded. A cockpit alarm is triggered when MMO is reached.

MMO at 29,300 feet and above is 0.737 Mach. Between 8,000 and 29,300 feet, Vmo (Never exceed velocity) is 278 KIAS. Below 8,000 feet that’s 260 KIAS.

If you have flaps on take-off, then remember that there is a limitation on speed while you are in your second stage climb, Vfe is 200 KIAS for fifteen degrees of flaps and you can only engage 35 degrees below 161 KIAS.

Flaps on the CJ3 have limitations so you have two things you need to remember. There is a speed you cannot exceed while they are extended and there is a speed range where you cannot operate them. This limitation can be confusing for those with low complex aircraft hours.

While it is fine to keep the gear extended past 200 KIAS and up to 250 KIAS, you cannot retract it when you are flying above 200 KIAS. The aerodynamic loads on the gear place an undue burden on the landing gear system and could damage it.

The speed brakes, however, can be deployed with no limitation on what speed the aircraft is flying at. However, they have to be retracted before coming within fifty feet of landing.

The difference between the two is that there is a concern for damage at extension or deployment of the gear and flaps beyond certain speeds, but the concern for the speed brakes has to do with the performance of the aircraft so close to the ground.

Price

The price of a used Cessna Citation CJ3 will vary depending on a number of factors. There are some aircraft for sale that were manufactured in the first year it was made and they average $5.5 million.

CJ3s that were manufactured in 2015, are now priced at an average price of $6.8 million.

CJ3s are no longer in production and have been replaced by the CJ3+ which is identical in every way except for an upgrade in the avionics package from the ProLine 210 to the Garmin 3000. A brand new CJ3+ is priced at $9.1 million.

About THE AUTHOR

Joe Haygood

Joe Haygood

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.

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