Citation CJ-3 and Citation Mustang Announcement Drew a Huge
Before the big announcement yesterday morning,
Cessna's marketing genius Phil Michel (with briefcase; and note
draped CJ-3 in background) looked happy and confident. He knew what
was to come in less than an hour.
When the time came and the crowds gathered, Cessna CEO Russ
Meyer just had to let us all know how successful the launch of the
Citation CJ-3, just a few days earlier, had gone. Although, of
course, a lot of the legwork had been done all summer long, it's
always impressive when a new model sells.
NBAA convention, Florida GA's answer to Farnborough, Mr Meyer let
us all know that the new CJ-3 (right) has booked 148 orders in
its brief public life. [That includes 50 to NetJets, which also
holds 50 options; and 25 to Citation Shares --ed.] The CJ-3, in
case you missed its announcement, is the longest-range, fastest CJ
The crowd was also treated to an unveiling of the CJ-3's
impressive avionics suite; and it's a shame nobody noticed.
Cessna's 1,000,000th customer, a current CJ owner who has put
his money down on a new CJ-3, was introduced. Mr. Juan Jose
Bermudez and his wife Ann were quite gracious, before the anxious
The real treat was the tiny fuselage, conspicuously draped, and
sitting in the Cessna exhibit. This little machine, as our
near-instant coverage told you, is called the Citation Mustang.
Russ Meyer made a quick speech, the drape was pulled back over the
top, and the well-appointed little display tube stood there -- to
The videos (there are several) all play to the
same emotion: jet lust. Owners of older cabin-class turbine
singles, or early-tech twins, beware: jet lust will get you. That's
Phil's idea, of course. Cessna just couldn't sit around and watch
Eclipse and Vern Raburn rack up two thousand sales -- so it came
out with a direct competitor. OK -- it's awfully close, anyway.
Comparisons are impossible. So, here goes:
Both Eclipse and Cessna now have their gloves off, with their
new one-pilot machines. Eclipse, of course, points out that its
machine has already flown, and that it costs roughly a
third the Mustang's price. Since both machines' performance
envelopes are really quite close on paper, additional factors must
come into play.
Both machines will feature state-of-the-art panels, with great
situational awareness built in. The Eclipse has a lot of
integration built into its circuitry, though, that nothing short of
an airliner has; and it's too early to tell where Cessna will go to
answer that technology breakthrough.
The Cessna mockup (right) is perhaps a sliver
sweeter-appointed -- but the Eclipse isn't going to bring back
anyone's childhood memories of pedal cars, either.
The Mustang is a little bigger inside -- it's a bigger airplane
all over, with unspecified, FJ-33 class engines. That probably will
also translate into somewhat higher operating costs; but these
newest-generation jets will both sport the best in efficiency, and
will both cost less to operate than many (even piston) twins.
Eclipse is showing off its first flight as evidence that its
projected delivery date of 2004 is achievable. Cessna has been
delivering airplanes since August 13, 1927, and notes that their
demonstrated on-time delivery record is awfully, awfully good. One
of Cessna's videos ends thus: "This is your moment. This is the
future. This is our promise: sure thing."
Assuming the Mustang and Eclipse deliveries are on time, the
Eclipse will have the Cessna beaten by a good two years. The
Mustang should be in the first customers' hands at the end of
The Mustang, as we mentioned in yesterday's
article, had sold 80 copies between Sunday night (when it was shown
to a small, hand-picked group of customers) and the Tuesday morning
announcement. By 11AM, there were a hundred, $10,000 deposits on
the cabin-class six-seater (six, including pilot). It didn't stop
then. There were so many people trying to buy positions in line
with their $10,000 deposits, Cessna literally had to get the
customers to stand in line, as they ran credit card after credit
card through the machine they had fortunately remembered to bring
to the show. By 2PM, when we again talked with Phil, he didn't wait
for me to ask. He just said, "200 so far." Even if there are a few
speculators in there, the $2 million in deposits ought to buy
everyone on Phil Michel's team a big, fat cigar.