Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Ferrari of the Skies

This week I was fortunate to fly on what can be accurately termed the Ferrari of the skies – the Cessna Citation X. Let me walk you through my experience, and hopefully I will convey some of the breathtaking aspects of this powerful, luxurious, and utterly beautiful aircraft.

Walking up to the airplane, you get a sense of caged power. This is partly due to the disproportionably large engines. It is also due to the sleek shape of the fuselage and wings giving the appearance of a crouching jaguar ready to leap. (Please check out the Citation X website for some pictures – you’ll see what I mean). The engines are Rolls-Royce AE 3007C-1’s each rated at 6,760 pounds thrust, 13,500 total. That’s quite a push for a plane with a max T/O weight of 36,000 pounds. Walking in to the plane you get overwhelmed with the smell of money – pure, unadulterated money. Wood veneer everywhere, gold color plated fixtures, and plush, wide leather seats. The configuration I flew in was eight passenger club configuration (4 and 4) with the ability to seat two more passengers – one in a jump seat, and the other in the lavatory (which is extremely posh too). If you can, choose a forward facing seat. I learned the hard way that rear facing seats forces you to hang on for dear life during the most exhilarating civilian takeoff around!

The takeoff felt like a drag race. We turned on to the runway, then the pilot opened the throttle. There was no engine spool up, no gradual seep increase; this caged jaguar leaped down the runway and with your heart in your throat, watching the ground fly by, you can’t help but grin. At about 170 knots (200 mph), only about 4,500 feet down the runway, she gracefully becomes airborne and begins the climb up to a cruising altitude of about 45,000 feet (takes about 20 minutes), but can go up to 51,000. She will be darting through the skies at a whopping Mach .92, or over 600 mph ground speed! (or 10 miles a minute, or a mile every six seconds) I saw this incredible speed first hand. The clouds and ground really move under your feet, and it really felt as if I were flying lower than I actually was, due to that relative motion. But a glance at the personal monitors confirmed that we were flying at 44,000 feet, and 570 knots! And the ground was moving fast!

I explored the galley, systematically opening up random drawers and cabinets, revealing a decked out all-you-need station – from refrigerated water to fresh brewed coffee and snacks; the only thing missing was a key to the locked liquor cabinet – drats!

I chatted up the pilots, who really enjoyed flying this airborne Ferrari, with full avionics, navigation, traffic and ground warnings. They adored the strong thrust reversers (up to 70% of thrust!) and said they could stop on a virtual dime, with landing distances much shorter than other smaller biz jets.

The aft section of the fuselage is the lavatory with a sliding door. It felt very spacious, and very luxurious. Wood, mirrors, and gold chrome adorned everything from the sink to the walls. Drawers were stocked with anything you might need – really - everything. From deodorant to q-tips, this bathroom had it all. If you do ever get stuck on the lavatory seat, don’t complain too much – there is only a slight smell of Lysol, and with a plethora of cabinets to explore, you’ll never get bored!

Not that you’d have time to get bored because the flight is so fast! From Detroit to Wichita (820 miles), I only had an hour and a half to read the paper and some of a book before we landed, again, gracefully.

The whole experience was spectacular – everyone should try it. Everyone should get a Citation X for that matter – all you need is a spare $20 million and a love for thrills.


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