“The Citation is just a PA28 on steroids” – We shall see…

As most of you know, sadly I left my full-time role at Team Freedom in April to take up a new role flying Cessna Citation Jets. Dave has asked me to jot down a few of my experiences during training for anyone who is interested.  So here we are …..

“The Citation is just a PA28 on steroids” – that is what my instructor said to me on day one. Interesting. Some obvious differences though: two jet engines, faster, higher, bigger… However, there are some remarkable similarities: two wings, ailerons, elevator, rudder, trimmers, throttle control.. Lets discuss.

a120509 PS 120509 G-LUBB(1) PS

Engines

G-LUBB is the aircraft in which I did my Type Rating. G-LUBB is a CJ1 with two William-Rolls FJ44-1A turbofan engines, each developing 1,900lbs of thrust. With a MTOW of 10,400lbs, that is quite a considerable power to weight ratio. As a result, one of the first things you notice when flying a CJ is the power and acceleration. The main difference on take off between the CJ and the PA28 is that you have to pay far more attention to the take-off roll as the aircraft very quickly accelerates to a rotate speed of 107kts.

The CJ1 and CJ2 have manual thrust leavers where you adjust the N1 (fan) power setting. The CJ2 has FADEC. There is no such thing as ‘shock-cooling’ a jet engine. Neither is there carb-heat. However, you do have to be very careful about overspeed. If the thrust levers are left in a climb thrust setting after levelling off (and sometimes even in the climb), the airspeed will easily reach 263kts in a matter of seconds, and overspeed.

Interestingly, in the faster CJ2, the max speed below 8,000ft is 260kts because above this speed, the windshield wouldn’t be able to take a bird strike. Go above 8,000ft and Cessna don’t believe there are any birds, so max speed increases to 275kts or 0.72M.

photo 1-1

Engine Failure

Anyone who has done any multi-engine training or flying will know that you spend most of your time flying around on one engine, with your instructor ‘failing’ your critical engine at the most inconvenient time, closely followed by a massive grin on their face. In a piston aircraft, one engine flying can be very hard work. Often large rudder inputs are required, the aircraft is very slow and climb performance is poor – and that’s assuming you have got the flap and gear away quickly!

In the CJ, principles are the same – ‘Dead Leg = Dead Engine”. However, the performance is very good – even on one engine. The aircraft will happily climb away after an engine failure at the most critical time (V1) and maintain a sensible climb rate with no problems.

General Flying

I guess the main difference in flying corporate charter to airline is that we do a lot of empty legs to position the aircraft to where the people want them. As a result, we use this opportunity to actually hand fly the aircraft. So, what are the differences between a CJ and a PA28?

Speed – The speed range is huge. Vr: 107kts, Venr 125kts, Vmo 260kts, Vs0 approx 80kts.
Even in G-ELUE, you have between 80kts and 105kts to work with – only 25kts. In the CJ, there is approximately 120kts in which you can happily operate. Remember slowing the PA28 down to 75kts on base from 100kts downwind, and then think about slowing from 250kts in the descent to below final landing flap speed of 161kts. Speed planning is a whole new thought process, and something which will take me some time to get used to.

Steep Turns – 45 degrees and back pressure required. Power is not added, due to the lag with jet engines. To counteract the slowing aircraft, more back pressure is added to maintain altitude. Obviously this can’t go on forever, but with the larger speed range, there are enough knots there to get you round 360deg.

Stalls – Standard Stall Recovery still applies, but with a few minor tweaks.
Incipient stalls require a pitch down, only enough to un-stall the wings whilst at the same time applying max continuous power.
Full stalls require a larger pitch down to un-stall the wing. Only when the aircraft is un-stalled is power added. The reason for the delay in adding power is due to the possibility of the aircraft entering a spin if asymmetric power is added whilst the aircraft is stalled. A spinning CJ is not fun!

photo 2-1

The Principles

Fundamentally, I guess the CJ is just a PA28 on steroids. We get to hand fly the aircraft like we do a PA28, and the aircraft is certified single-crew. Roll is heavier, and level offs have to be anticipated by 500ft, not 50ft – something to do with the 7,000ft/min climb rate in an empty aircraft. The main difference is that everything happens 2.5 times quicker. Getting ahead of the aircraft can prove a struggle, especially on short trips. For example Bristol to Guernsey; as soon as top of climb is reached, it’s onto the approach briefing.

The main piece of advice I can give anyone (and this isn’t just because I’m an instructor) is to learn the correct techniques for flying aircraft. PAT, APT, SHT…. they are true whether you are flying a PA28, a CJ or an A380. When was the last time you flew with an instructor? Have you developed any bad habits? A PA28 may disguise them, but if you have any ambition of flying commercially or anything faster than a PA28, then fly regularly with an instructor. It’s much better to sort out any bad habits at 100kts than it is at 250kts!

Happy Landings
Ben

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