9:06 PM

Christopher Would be
Blown Away

You just HAVE to wonder what one of our most legendary explorers – Christopher Columbus – would think about a flying living room that could cross an ocean in a few hours instead of a few months. He might be equally baffled how this craft could be only two feet longer then his Santa Maria, but not hold ANY "on the hoof" livestock for the crew to devour enroute. And of course, the Sea Captain would want to know how on Earth ANY pilot could control a vehicle that traveled faster then his ship's maxxed out, pedal-to-the-metal speed of...eight knots.

Ol' Chris would have loved the March 2008 issue of Aviation International News. This issue was special because tacked inside was a gorgeous eight-page double gatefold insert advertising Cessna's latest creation, the Citation Columbus. It is being called "The biggest jet news in the history of the world's biggest business jet company," by Cessna, and I dare anyone to dispute that tagline.

The new USD $27M large-cabin class jet is proof positive that the business jet market is as hot as it's ever been. From the smallest PJs like the Piperjet and Cirrus The-Jet, to the Boeing Business Jet, pre-orders and sales are off the charts. So Cessna's entry into the super-huge bizjet market is of no surprise, and they appear to be aiming their sights directly at Gulfstream's G450.

There can be no doubt that Cessna has always built some of the finest bizjets in the air. Most of the early Citations are still out there flying, and their last "big thing", the Citation Mustang, could not be any more popular. So let's sit back and take a quick look at the biggest, baddest Citation on the planet:

The Columbus will carry two crew + 10 pax in supreme luxury about 4,000 nm (w/NBAA IFR reserves) if the pilots maintain somewhere in the neighborhood of 459 KTAS. It can depart from a field as short as 5,400 feet, and will be certified to fly as high as FL450 [full specs here as PDF]. At 77 feet long and 80 feet wingtip to wingtip, this is a big Citation. But you will really feel that size when you step into the 36.3-foot-long cabin, one that has enough headroom to let a fully-evolved six-foot human finally walk upright.
The flight deck of the Columbus ought to be a quite a special place, decked out in the very latest of whiz and bang, so says the Columbus web site:
"Columbus flight crews will be among the most informed in the sky. The new Pro Line Fusion™ system from Rockwell Collins combines the proven success of Pro Line 21® with significant new technological advancements. This fully integrated flight deck will feature four landscape high-resolution LCD displays working in concert with an available Head-up Guidance System (HGS™), graphical flight planning, synthetic and the available enhanced vision, and Rockwell Collins´ award-winning MultiScan™ Hazard Detection system. Pilots can operate the system conventionally or by using the latest voice-recognition technology. The 15-inch (38-centimeter) displays are the largest high-resolution displays available in the industry and allow for high-speed display interfaces that facilitate point-and-click access to flight planning, aircraft performance monitoring and hazard avoidance. The cursor control panel helps reduce pilot workload while increasing flight deck operational efficiency."
Wow. You get lost in this thing, and you don't deserve to fly. And what's up with the voice recognition technology? Man-oh-man, that kind of stuff sure makes my mind race with possibilities!

AIN is reporting that the development program for the Columbis will cost Cessna $775 million, but what is important to note about that figure is this:
"None of the suppliers are risk-sharing partners, said Cessna president and CEO Jack Pelton. “Cessna’s paying all of the development costs, and it gives us the ability to decide what is best for us to build versus what is best for someone else.”
So with the Columbus, it will be Kansas calling the shots, period. AIN reports 70 signed letters of intent which Cessna expects those letters to be converted into firm orders in 2008. It appears the first flight of a prototype will be in 2011, with FAA certification in 2013 and entry-into-service in 2014.

Good work Cessna. Now, how about a nice, modern, all-glass, composite, turbodiesel-powered version of the 310 as next year's "wow" moment? At some point, someone in the small airplane game will need to step up and build a new, state-of-the-art light twin to compete with Diamond Aircraft's DA-42 Twin Star, and as far as I see it, there are only two players in this game who can pull that off. And if Kansas doesn't want that action, I'm sure Duluth will be happy to deliver the Next Generation of light twins.

Please, Alan, please?

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