These jets have price tags in the $20 million to $30 million bracket, maximum cruise speeds around 450-plus knots, maximum ranges in the 3,000- to 3,500-nautical-mile neighborhood, seats for 10 to 12 passengers, a galley, flat floors, and certification under FAR Part 25. All this means that they’re ideally suited for coast-to-coast trips under most conditions, which is one reason they’re so popular with large corporate flight departments and fractional ownership operations.
So it is with the Longitude. Since its certification in 2019, it has so far scored 175 sales to NetJets, the world’s largest fractional, plus deliveries to 31 private customers. It’s the roomiest, quietest, most luxurious and capable of the Citation line, with all of the creature comforts an executive—and his entourage—would need. That includes an optional aft divan, berthable seats, and connectivity that can bring Wi-Fi, internet, and text messaging to the cabin. More on that later.
It’s also a beast. I got a sampling on a flight with Textron demo pilot David Bodlak. After an auxiliary power unit start, I used the Longitude’s tiller for taxi steering to Runway 19L at Wichita’s Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport. Until you get a little practice, the sensitive tiller can make steering a bit jerky (but it can also let you turn on a dime). We had already determined the takeoff and climb V-speeds, bugged them on the Garmin G5000’s PFDs, entered the flight plan using the GTC 570 touchscreen controllers, set trims, and programmed the Garmin autothrottles (ATs) using its FMS mode. After liftoff, we’d climb at 200 KIAS until leaving the Class D, then transition to a 250-knot climb until reaching 10,000 feet, followed by an en route climb at 280 knots until reaching our cruise altitude of Flight Level 400.
Our weight was 32,965 pounds, which is 6,535 pounds lighter than the airplane’s maximum takeoff weight, and 9,200 pounds of that was in fuel. I should mention that this was sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)—not Jet A. SAF is made of used cooking oil, animal and plant waste fats and oils, food scraps, and wastepaper. It may not sound appetizing, but it meets Jet A specifications and is eco-friendly in that it reduces carbon emissions. It’s also a “drop-in” fuel that requires no STCs and incurs no limitations.
At our weight and temperature (plus 2 degrees Celsius/35 degrees Fahrenheit) the G5000 came up with a 107-knot V1, a 113-knot VR, and a 125-knot V2. This would be an autothrottle takeoff from a standing start, so I tillered off the taxiway and onto 19L, pickled up the flight director command bars, armed the ATs, stood on the brakes, then pushed the power levers all the way up (other AT systems activate as you push the levers midway through their travel). A quick final reminder from Bodlak: Do not use the tiller during the takeoff run.
About three seconds later came that glorious push, as all 15,330 pounds of thrust from those Honeywell HTF7700L engines kicked in and sent us rocketing down the centerline. A handful of seconds later we blew past V1, then VR, and were blowing past 160 knots in a 4,000-fpm climb at 20 degrees nose-up. Then it was autopilot on, and a right turn out. This all happened in less than 30 seconds; in 12 minutes we were leveling at FL400.
At a maximum thrust power setting the numbers told the tale: Mach 0.840, 253 KIAS (right at barberpole), 469 KTAS, a fuel burn of 940 pph (140 gph) per side, and a groundspeed of 416 knots. At this rate, given the day’s winds, we’d be in Los Angeles in about 2.5 hours, with some 1,000 gallons of fuel remaining.
At one point I ducked out of the cockpit to look over the cabin. It’s pretty quiet back there, thanks to Textron’s attention to noise sources both small and large, subtle and in plain sight. Perhaps the biggest noise reduction comes from an expandable curtain that can cover the airstair door opening. Used on the ramp to keep cabin temperatures under control when it’s hot or cold outside, the curtain also keeps slipstream noise down when in flight. Closing the front pocket doors is also a big help—plus, it separates the galley from the seating area.
The cabin width (6 feet 4 inches at its widest, 4 feet 1 inch at floor level) and height (6 feet) are the same as those of the Longitude’s mid-size stable mate, the Citation Latitude. But the Longitude cabin is six feet longer, which gives the seats more legroom and makes for an overall roomier feel. Is there a lavatory? You bet—complete with an airline-style vacuum-flush toilet.
Then there’s the Gogo Avance L5, a 4G connectivity platform that lets passengers stream video and audio, surf the web, email, text, and make calls using their smartphones. Using an iPad, I called up an old Clint Eastwood spaghetti western and listened to music on a few SiriusXM stations. Using an iPad app, you can also control cabin lighting and temperature, and even open and close the window shades. Connectivity like this is becoming a must-have in nearly all turbine airplanes, large or small.
Back up in the cockpit, it was time for a descent to the teens and some low-speed demonstrations. The Longitude has overspeed and underspeed envelope protection, but no overbank countermeasures. When power is pulled back to idle, the nose lowers and the ATs spool up the engines just as airspeed bleeds off into the low-airspeed alert bands. Dive the airplane, and the ATs reduce power and the nose pitches up. As for stall protection, there’s a stick shaker/pusher system. If you somehow ignore the shaker—hard to do, because it physically shakes the control yoke—the pusher will automatically, and aggressively, force the nose to a lower angle of attack before the stall can occur.
Approaches and landings reveal a mildly obtrusive Longitude trait. The ship is ponderous in roll, in spite of the multifunction spoiler system’s integration with the ailerons. Three of the spoiler system’s four panels deploy to assist in banking. The fourth, most inboard spoiler panels deploy—along with the others—with weight on wheels when landing.
My landings were with ATs, which did a great job of honoring all of our VFEs as we slowed and added flaps, then holding our VAPP of 131 KIAS and VREF of 119 KIAS. New with the Longitude is an AT programming mode that lets you preset your arrival at VREF at various distances from the runway threshold. The default setting is two nautical miles, but you can make it farther or closer using a touchscreen menu. The AT logic will also add a few knots to the VREF speed if it detects any incipient airspeed excursions because of turbulence. Just prior to landing, the ATs automatically retard power to idle thrust at 50 feet agl, and after that it’s up to you. The airplane lands in a flat attitude, so Bodlak advised pitching up ever so slightly and letting it roll on.
Now it’s time for braking and reverse thrust, and using some other systems new with the Longitude. The “fly-by-wire” antiskid braking system is electrically controlled and hydraulically actuated by a split hydraulic system. The inboard brakes are powered by the A side of the hydraulic system, while the B side grabs the outboard brake discs. If one side is inoperative, the other can power both main gear brake sets, and the brake logic will continue to provide symmetrical braking forces.
With nosewheel touchdown, reach up on the thrust levers, press on the reverse thrust paddles, and pull the levers all the way back. Reverse will kick in, and decelerating through 85 KIAS thrust levels are autoscheduled to go from maximum to idle thrust by 45 KIAS. This new function means no pilot action is needed to modulate reverse thrust. The result is maximum braking with less workload.
After pulling the levers out of reverse and slowing to a 15-knot taxi, the tiller knob went back into action, bringing the bird back to its hangar at Textron’s Building W22, the flight operations department’s home. Chocks in, and time for a box lunch and debrief!
The Longitude is apt to remain Textron’s flagship for the foreseeable future. Plans to build the Hemisphere—a 4,500-nm, Mach 0.90 12-seater—have been put on hold owing to problems with its Safran Silvercrest engines. Difficulties centered around the engine’s high-pressure compressor. At altitude, the engine reportedly was slow to accelerate and decelerate, behavior that caused Textron to deem the engine unacceptable.
The Hemisphere was the second airplane program to suffer from the Silvercrest’s performance issues. Dassault Aviation’s Falcon 5X was to have used the Silvercrest, but the program was canceled in 2017 after encountering the same problems. Its new Falcon 6X is powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PW800 engines.
But it’s not like Textron is standing still. Longitude deliveries began in 2019, the King Airs 260 and 360 were introduced, and two new turboprop airplanes are in the works. The SkyCourier is a 19-seater/cargo-hauler powered by twin Pratt & Whitney PT6A-66SC turboprop engines; the Denali is a 1,600-nm, 285-knot 8- to 11-seater powered by a single GE Catalyst engine. Stand by for updates on both.