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Cessna is now pro­duc­ing the CJ3+, and I was ea­ger to see what could pos­si­bly have been done to make it a bet­ter air­plane. A great deal, it turns out.

In a way, the in­tro­duc­tion to the CJ3+ is a lit­tle like go­ing to your high school re­union and find­ing that the place has been com­pletely ren­o­vated. The ex­te­rior looks pretty much the same. They still teach al­ge­bra in there. But once inside, the sen­sa­tion is dis­ori­en­tat­ing. About the only thing that’s left where it used to be is the cafe­te­ria.

So it is with the CJ3+. With the ex­cep­tion of “CJ3+” on the en­gine cowl­ing, the ex­te­rior, beau­ti­fully fin­ished, pretty much looks like any CJ3. Ex­te­rior pre­flight is ba­si­cally un­changed. Bag­gage com­part­ments fore and aft look the same and have the same weight lim­its. The en­gine oil and hy­draulic fluid sight gauges are right where I left them.

Once in the left seat, there are a few fa­mil­iar sights re­main­ing. The air­plane still has the same park­ing brake lever, the same emer­gency gear ex­ten­sion han­dle and the same emer­gency brak­ing sys­tem. There is a con­trol wheel that is fancier than be­fore and the throt­tles are slightly more im­pres­sive feel­ing, but they are right where they used to be. The flap han­dle feels the same. The gear con­trol switch is in the same place, though the panel is now an­gled, not flat.

When it comes to per­for­mance, which is the rea­son for the quote about get­ting it right, the en­gines are still Williams FJ44-3AS (we had to mem­o­rize that fact at CAE’S train­ing fa­cil­ity), pro­duc­ing 2,820 pounds of thrust. The full-author­ity dig­i­tal en­gine con­trols are the same, but you don’t have to swap chan­nels any­more; the air­plane does that for you. Max take­off weight is still 13,870 pounds (also mem­o­rized many times). Max speed is 416 knots, or about Mach 0.73 plus a small amount of change. Here’s the amaz­ing part: You can still take four peo­ple and a pi­lot 1,800 miles. That’s a long way in a light jet. (I have per­son­ally flown a CJ3 from Oak­land, California, to Char­lottesville, Vir­ginia, a straight­line dis­tance of 2,058 nm, with only a mod­est tail­wind.) Th­ese num­bers are sim­i­lar to those pub­lished for the first CJ3 sold.

But that is about it for the sim­i­lar­i­ties. The avion­ics have mor­phed from the Rock­well Collins Pro Line 21 sys­tem to Garmin G3000. Many of the switches have been moved. The ro­tary test knob is gone; its func­tion is now man­aged by the Garmin GTC 570 touch con­trollers. Th­ese are perched for­ward of the throt­tles, short­en­ing the pedestal and mak­ing cock­pit ingress and egress eas­ier. To eyes ac­cus­tomed to the air­liner look of the Collins FMS, th­ese col­or­ful dis­plays are tal­ented boxes mas­querad­ing as video games. The two PFDS are huge, and so is the MFD, which makes it feel like you’re watch­ing the news on TV. All three screens have split-screen ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

Most pi­lot re­ports em­pha­size a litany of facts and fig­ures, ar­cane acronyms and tech­ni­cal jar­gon. Rather than re­cite all the par­tic­u­lars, let’s dis­cover the air­plane by ac­tu­ally fly­ing it. And more than just do­ing some stalls, climb­ing to al­ti­tude and then re­turn­ing to the same air­port, let’s go some­place.

On a hot July day, Parker Madill, Ben Nofziger and I were to take a new CJ3+ from the Cessna fac­tory in Wi­chita, Kansas (KICT) to Chicago Ex­ec­u­tive Air­port (KPWK, known to many as Pal­wau­kee), just north­west of Chicago’s city core. Here’s what I saw, though I’m sure I missed a lot.

I jumped into the left seat, and Parker slid into the right. With the bat­tery switch on, the cock­pit glass was al­ready lit up — there is no sep­a­rate avion­ics power switch. There are now two bat­ter­ies on board, and avion­ics pretty much stay on all the time, even dur­ing en­gine start. Im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous were the er­gonomic im­prove­ments. The au­topi­lot, yaw dam­per and as­so­ci­ated con­trols are now po­si­tioned, air­liner-like, just un­der the glareshield. The GFC 700 au­topi­lot is a marvel. It even has an EDM, or emer­gency de­scent mode, which will au­to­mat­i­cally take the air­plane down


to 15,000 feet at Vmo/mmo should the cabin al­ti­tude ex­ceed 15,000 feet when the air­plane is above 30,000 feet. So, even if we were all passed out from a sud­den de­pres­sur­iza­tion, we’d get down to breath­able air au­to­mat­i­cally. The de­scent will hap­pen faster if I have the sense and the con­scious time to re­tard the throt­tles and de­ploy the speed­brakes. The anti-ice and de­ic­ing switches are still green but grouped in a more sen­si­ble way. The pitot and AOA heats are re­lo­cated to the right side of the cock­pit and can­not be mis­taken for, say, wind­shield heat.

Pro­gram­ming the flight plan was easy and in­tu­itive. Good thing, too, be­cause our clear­ance was com­pletely dif­fer­ent from the route Parker had filed. Per­for­mance cal­cu­la­tions were a breeze. Once the weight of the pas­sen­gers and cargo are added, the air­plane weighs its own fuel load. The weather is au­to­mat­i­cally up­loaded, so all you have to en­ter is which run­way you plan to use and up pop your V speeds and take­off dis­tance. Ours were cus­tom­ar­ily low and short (101, 102, 114 and 3,200 feet). Th­ese num­bers were au­to­mat­i­cally ap­plied to our air­speed tapes on the PFDS. Pres­sur­iza­tion man­age­ment is a snap. The des­ti­na­tion field el­e­va­tion is au­to­mat­i­cally plucked from the flight plan and is set in the land­ing field el­e­va­tion win­dow, and the sys­tem takes care of the rest.

The en­gine start but­tons are in the pedestal just aft of the throt­tles. Push the start but­ton and the anti-col­li­sion bea­con comes on au­to­mat­i­cally. You don’t have to wait for 8 to 10 per­cent N2 be­fore bring­ing the throt­tle out of cut­off. You just bring the throt­tle up and the air­plane will know when it is safe to in­tro­duce fuel and en­er­gize the ig­nit­ers.

With both en­gines turn­ing, we rechecked our flight plan and legs. We did not need to re-ini­tial­ize the GPS. Stan­dard gen­er­a­tor tests were done, trims rechecked and the af­ter-start check­list com­pleted.

I pushed up just a half inch of power and eas­ily swung the air­plane into a 140-de­gree turn to get us started to­ward Run­way 19L. We checked our ground flaps (used to dump lift and slow us upon land­ing) and ran the rud­der bias check to be sure we’d get help with di­rec­tional con­trol should we lose one at V1. As we rolled along Taxi­way Mike, I saw an an­nun­ci­a­tion for M6 on the PFD, alert­ing me that we were pass­ing that in­ter­sec­tion. Sim­i­lar alerts for run­way in­cur­sion are hugely use­ful, es­pe­cially at un­fa­mil­iar air­ports in poor vis­i­bil­ity.

Just as I was bring­ing the air­plane to a stop at the depar­ture run­way, the tower asked if we were ready. Af­ter con­firm­ing with me, Parker ra­dioed, “Af­fir­ma­tive,” and onto the run­way we went, with the fur­ther in­struc­tion to turn right to a head­ing of 230 de­grees. I brought the power up into the take­off de­tent and searched in vain for the “TO green” in­di­ca­tion that was my call-out on hun­dreds of pre­vi­ous CJ3 flights. This mi­nor dis­trac­tion un­set­tled me.

I called 70 knots, then V1, and pulled back. Then it got un­fa­mil­iar. I looked up to the glareshield to search for the yaw dam­per and had a hard time find­ing it. Flum­moxed, I was ei­ther early on ask­ing for the au­topi­lot or late ask­ing for flaps up and fi­nally had to be re­minded to re­duce to climb power. The 10-month lay­off since my last CJ3 flight, cou­pled with the un­fa­mil­iar avion­ics and lay­out, had me per­form­ing poorly. It re­minded me that, though I have a sin­gle-pi­lot type rat­ing in this air­plane, it would take some in­struc­tion and sev­eral hours to be­come pro­fi­cient.

Soon, I was com­fort­able com­mand­ing the au­topi­lot and re­pro­gram­ming

the flight plan. We got sev­eral reroutes. The air­plane was Rvsm-ca­pa­ble but not cer­ti­fied, due to pa­per­work, so Parker asked Kansas City Cen­ter if we could climb through the Class A airspace to FL 450. With var­i­ous in­ter­me­di­ate level-offs, that’s ex­actly what we did.

Quiet, serene and com­fort­able at 450 (cabin al­ti­tude was 7,800 feet), we were show­ing 411 knots true, 420 knots over the ground, and burn­ing 360 pounds per side — a to­tal of 107 gph. The tem­per­a­ture was ISA-4. Th­ese num­bers were slightly bet­ter than book. “This air­plane doesn’t read its own man­ual,” said Parker. With lit­tle to see on the Nexrad, I turned on the radar — again via the GTC 570 con­troller. The GWX 70 weather radar sys­tem is solid state — no mag­netron is in­volved. Hav­ing bought a mag­netron once, this seems like a re­ally good fea­ture. The radar and the Nexrad can be dis­played next to each other on the MFD. I’ll bet that is great for work­ing your way across thun­der­storm-in­fested Florida on a sum­mer­time af­ter­noon.

Chicago Cen­ter no­ticed our RVSM lim­i­ta­tion and started us down early. Soon, we were at Flight Level 270, burn­ing 620 pounds per side. We had the metar and guessed we’d be on the ILS 16, but the ATIS was call­ing for the RNAV 16. This was easy to reload, but I in­ad­ver­tently hit the “ac­ti­vate ap­proach” but­ton in­stead of the “load ap­proach” but­ton. This caused the air­plane to think we were sup­posed to head to the fi­nal ap­proach fix even though we were 179 miles from the air­port. Parker quickly got us back on track, and I learned the hard way not to hit just any shiny screen but­ton

Pause with the word “ap­proach” on it.


a sec­ond be­fore point­ing

, I thought. Land­ing num­bers were just as easy to get as take­off num­bers. Vref was 104.

The ap­proach was easy, we hit ac­ti­vate vec­tors to fi­nal, the air­plane tracked in­bound flaw­lessly and I slowed to 200 knots as we ducked un­der O’hare’s Class B airspace.

Ap­proach gave us a speed of 180 knots, cleared us for the ap­proach and turned us over to the tower. “Slow to best prac­ti­cal land­ing speed. You are num­ber three for the air­port,” said the tower man. Af­ter con­sul­ta­tion, I de­ployed the gear early to slow us down. We could see the traffic on the run­way at 500 feet.

Though I was 6 knots over ref and we floated a bit, the air­plane’s trail­ing link gear cov­ered all sins with a soft kiss. We made the turnoff at Lima and tax­ied in. Though I was re­luc­tant to shut the air­plane down, it didn’t make much sense to sit there with the en­gines run­ning. Af­ter com­plet­ing the af­ter-shut­down check­list, I scram­bled into the back to re­trieve my coat.

Whoa, it is beau­ti­ful back here. The seats are re­designed with new arm­rests. The car­pet is gor­geous. The cab­i­netry is flaw­less. It is easy, in a state of euphoria about the air­plane and its ca­pa­bil­i­ties, to over­look the fine Led-lit at­mos­phere that will en­ve­lope your pas­sen­gers. You may have a bet­ter view up front, but own­ing an air­plane like this means you will aim to please oth­ers. Whether it is your spouse and fam­ily or the CEO, this will do it. A new air­plane is truly a mag­nif­i­cent sight.

At $7.9 mil­lion it might be a while be­fore I can buy a CJ3+, but should I win the lot­tery, I’ll make a bee­line for Wi­chita. I might be se­duced by the CJ4, with its slightly longer range and higher speeds, but with the CJ3+ I’m sav­ing a mil­lion dol­lars. That CJ3+ will look very good at that next high school re­union. I can’t wait to see the look on the face of that girl who turned me down for the se­nior prom.

1. From the out­side, the CJ3+ looks nearly iden­ti­cal to the orig­i­nal CJ3, be­ly­ing all that has changed. 2. In the past sev­eral years, Cessna has done a great job of refin­ing the CJ line's pas­sen­ger com­part­ments.

1. The CJ3+ is a top-flight light jet with the range to pro­vide non­stop coast-to­coast legs. 2. Power comes from a pair of fadec-con­trolled Williams FJ44-3A tur­bo­fan en­gines. 3. The CJ3+ cabin of­fers ma­te­ri­als and ameni­ties of­ten found in much larger...

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