On Monday Textron Aviation unveiled the latest iteration of its popular 560XL family, the Cessna Citation Ascend. The new aircraft will receive major upgrades to extend the production of mid-size twin-engine aircraft.
Key features of the $16.725 million business jet include Garmin G5000 avionics, autothrottle, more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) PW545D engines, higher maximum takeoff weight and payload, increased flight range, flat floor and other cabin amenities. Ascend is expected to enter service in early 2025.
According to Textron Aviation President and CEO Ron Draper, the 560XL "is the most successful business jet family in history." Over the past 25 years, the company has delivered over 1,000 560XL aircraft.
The recessed floor on the 560XL, while providing more headroom, was at odds with the flat floor trend in modern business jet design. In the case of the Ascend, engineers didn't make any changes to the outer dimensions of the fuselage to accommodate the flat floor, but essentially filled in a recess and relocated some system components to make those changes.
Designers have also created new seats for the Ascend that take advantage of the flat floor, giving passengers more room to move their seats around and find more comfortable positions. A customer advisory board helped influence the design changes, which include outlets at each seat — a total of three standard universal outlets and 19 USB charging ports — and wireless phone charging.
Of course, the flat floor reduces the cabin height of the Ascend by eight inches from the previous center recess in the 560XL. The height of the Ascend is 60 inches, and at the threshold, where the front door is located, it is 63 inches. From the entrance, passengers climb a small three-inch ramp into the main saloon.
“The flat floor gives customers the ultimate in relaxation,” said Christie Tannahill, Senior Vice President, Customer Experience. “When you sit down, it seems that the cabin has become larger. Customers overwhelmingly supported it."
Buyers can choose from standard carpet or stone floor options. Along with a less cramped view provided by a flat floor, Ascend's portholes are 15% larger, with a smoother and more rounded profile at the top and bottom.
The redesigned, ergonomically designed seats are electrically adjustable and feature double armrests that fold into the seatback. The two club seats can move more than a foot on their rails. Customers can choose from footrests, electrically controlled lumbar support, custom quilting and custom tailoring.
The toilet has stone countertops and the floor can be covered with stone or vinyl material. Carpet is included as standard.
A typical nine-seat layout includes two seats opposite the front door, a four-seat club seating area, then two forward-facing seats, and one convertible restroom seat. The cabin can accommodate up to 12 people. The seatbacks can be folded out to form flat beds. In the aft cabin there is a central closet.
Textron Aviation engineers have improved the cabin noise level of the Ascend using advanced materials, making it much quieter than previous 560XL models. According to the company, the noise level in the cabin will be the same as in a modern car. The manufacturer's Clairity Cabin Control System allows passengers to wirelessly control interior lighting, temperature, window shades and entertainment.
For in-flight communications, the Citation Ascend is equipped with a Gogo Avance L-3 Max air-to-ground system for the US and partial coverage over Canada. Options include the Avance L-5 high-speed system and Cobham Aviator 300 Inmarsat SwiftBroadband satellite communications for Internet use and voice calls outside the US.
The new P&WC 545D engines deliver more thrust and improved fuel efficiency than previous versions. Changes include a more efficient high-pressure compressor, an improved single-stage high-pressure turbine module, and an upgraded exhaust gas mixer, according to Textron Aviation.
The Woodward autothrottle system is integrated with Garmin avionics to reduce pilot workload, especially in busy airspace. This is the same autothrust system as on the Latitude and Longitude, so all three aircraft will use the same avionics systems, which Textron Aviation says is "an important feature for customers who operate multiple Citation aircraft."
With Ascend's entry into service, only one production Citation model, the CJ4 Gen2, will be equipped with Collins Aerospace avionics, with all others now equipped with Garmin G3000/G5000.
In addition to the autothrottle, Ascend's G5000 features include three 14-inch split-screen ultra-high resolution displays with synthetic vision; four touch controllers; autopilot with protection against going beyond the limits of permissible flight modes; Garmin GSR 56 Iridium satellite communications for voice calls and messaging for the flight crew; Garmin GWX 8000 StormOptix radar with weather detection and warning technology; and a second Iridium satellite for CPDLC and FANS 1/A communications and operations.
Although final specifications are not yet available, preliminary data from Textron Aviation suggests a range of 1,900 nautical miles at high cruising speed with four passengers, compared to 1,750 nautical miles for the XLS+. A maximum cruising speed of 441 knots and a range of 2,100 nautical miles, as well as a climb time of 30 minutes, are the same as the FL450's predecessor.
The new maximum takeoff weight is 20,500 pounds, 300 pounds more than the XLS+. Maximum empty weight increased by 400 pounds to 15,500 pounds, and maximum payload increased from 2,240 pounds to 2,390 pounds. At a higher takeoff weight, the Ascend has almost the same takeoff distance as the XLS+, only 60 feet more. Landing distance is 3220 feet for the Ascend versus 3180 feet for the XLS+.
As the Ascend will be certified as an add-on to the 560XL type certificate, current Excel/XLS/XLS+ pilots will only need to retrain on differences, primarily in avionics and autothrottle.