The latest update to the Cessna Citation 560XL series, the Ascend, implements a flat floor, new seats with electrically controlled release, bigger windows and more.
The Cessna Citation 560XL mid-size business jet has a 25-year heritage, with the first model certified in April 1998. In that time more than 1,000 560XLs have been delivered, with the aircraft being a particular hit with fractional owners and charter operators. The 560XL is one of the most-flown Citations, with one taking off or landing every two minutes.
At EBACE 2023, Textron Aviation unveiled a mock-up of the latest evolution of the line – the Cessna Citation Ascend – and announced that with “strong demand” already, the aircraft is expected to enter service in 2025.
Based on the 560XL airframe, the Ascend integrates many of the features of the Citation Latitude and Citation Longitude, including a common Garmin G5000 cockpit. Textron says this is important for those operating mixed Citation fleets. To ease customers’ path through its product line, Textron plans to amend the 560XL’s type certification so that pilots can transition to the Ascend through an approved differences course.
The latest generation of the 560XL was unveiled fairly recently, in October 2021, as the Cessna Citation XLS Gen2, and achieved certification in May 2022. The Ascend incorporates a lot of the interior developments of the Gen2, but with key differences including a flat floor, a new seat design and more.
As with all its product developments, Textron Aviation took great care to get the opinions of the owners, pilots, mechanics and passengers with experience of the series. Customer advisory boards were consulted in both the USA and Europe, a big market for the airframe.
“We deliver more than 50% of our 560XL aircraft outside the USA,” comments Christi Tannahill, senior vice president of customer experience at Textron Aviation. “Every one in three jets in Europe is a Citation aircraft. So this is just one more advancement to ensure that we really focus on the market here.”
Textron asked board members what they wanted to see in the next aircraft, gathering opinions on everything from aesthetics to engines, avionics and more.
As with the Gen2, the Ascend has illuminated stairs and a side-facing couch with fold-down seatbacks providing extra storage space in the entrance area. This couch is a customer favourite, according to Tannahill, and so has been made standard on the Ascend, where it was optional on the Gen2. “Customers can pull down the couch and place their bags and catering there, without damaging the interior,” she adds.
The galley has been redesigned based on customer feedback, with care taken to position drawers in the optimal places and enable customers to carry all the things important to their mission. There’s an option for stone flooring in this area. “It’s been very well received because it’s about the same weight as carpet, but very durable and slip-resistant,” says Tannahill.
In the mock-up this flooring is implemented in white, but Tannahill says “even with this light colour, if you spill red wine, you can easily clean it up, so it’s very maintainable”.
The stone flooring also features in the aft lavatory, which is equipped with a belted seat, additional storage space, a sink and more.
In the main cabin, one of the biggest changes compared to the Gen2 is that the Ascend has a flat floor, to provide more legroom, more room to swivel seats and greater ease in moving around the cabin. “There was a lot of conversation around the benefits of a flat floor for comfort,” says Tannahill. “Probably the most critical and exciting feedback we got was around the flat floor. We bring customers in for the customer advisory board multiple times and listen to what they have to say.”
There’s a new seat design, created for optimised posture. “You have the ability to stretch your legs completely out, swivel the seats 45° and relax,” explains Tannahill.
As a result of listening to customers and a lot of ergonomic testing, Tannahill says the new seat is the most comfortable seat Textron has built. “We’ve done a lot of testing in terms of what it looks like when you sit in the aircraft immediately, what it feels like after an hour, after two hours, to make sure that the entirety of the flight is comfortable,” she says.
At the point of specifying their cabin interior, customers can select from three levels of firmness for the seat foam. Optional features include quilting, footrests and lumbar support.
A major new feature is electrically controlled, push-button release for swivel and tracking on the seat pedestal. “As the seats have more technology, because lumbar support is available as well, you push the button on the seat, rather than having to pull anything to release it,” says Tannahill. “You push the button and it automatically unlocks, you move the seat where you want, you take your hand off the button and it locks in place. It also allows the seat to be sturdier because you don’t have a pulley to work against. So not only is it more comfortable, it’s also more functional.”
Along with the flat floor, the push-button release is one of the biggest changes resulting from customer feedback. “As you get into the larger cabins with the larger seats, especially in an aircraft that is used a lot for charter, as this is, it may be more difficult for people to manoeuvre the seats because they’re heavier,” explains Tannahill. “The suggestion to incorporate a technology where you just touch the seat and it releases was great feedback.”
When it comes to the sideledges, several features debuted with the Gen2 have been carried into the Ascend – including wireless charging; self opening and closing tables; and larger cupholders with accent lights.
As well as wireless charging points there are USB charging points throughout the cabin, and three standard universal outlets, meaning all crew and passengers will have access to at least one charging port at their seat.
Window to the world
Cabin windows on the Citation Ascend are nearly 15% larger than on the Gen2, for increased natural light. There are translucent and opaque shade settings, along with wireless shade control, and optional illuminated window rings.
On the cabin noise front, the aircraft will feature an acoustic treatment system and, as on the Gen2, an acoustic entry curtain. Textron Aviation says this will result in a noise level similar to that inside a car travelling on the highway. “We’ve worked on the acoustics of the aircraft, so you’re going to notice a quieter cabin, using a lot of the technologies that we have in the Citation Latitude, so it’ll be similar to that noise level,” says Tannahill.
Other features retained from the Gen2 offering include the optional Bongiovi immersive speaker-less sound system; and wireless control of cabin lighting, temperature and onboard entertainment.
Window shades have been upgraded from manual operation on the Gen2 to electric on the Ascend, so these can also now be controlled via the updated CMS.
Other cabin technologies include standard Gogo US Avance L3 Max wi-fi and optional US Avance L5 wi-fi; and optional Aviator 300 for wi-fi and worldwide calling.
Configuration options range from the standard layout for nine passengers, to a maximum capacity of 12 passengers. The standard layout, as in the mock-up shown at EBACE, has a galley and two-place fold-down couch up front, followed by club seating. One alternative has a one-place fold-down seat up front with the galley, enabling a larger closet.
Lots of options
The sky’s the limit in terms of materials, Tannahill says. “Throughout the mock-up we have focused on sustainable materials, whether it be leathers, carpets, veneers, we have a huge amount of options,” she says.
Overall, Tannahill is most proud of how the team has incorporated the feedback of the customer advisory board. “Every one of the changes really enhances the overall experience,” she says. “I am most proud of our team being able to really listen to the customers, get their feedback, and design the aircraft based off of what the customers demand.”
This feature was first published in the July 2023 edition of Business Jet Interiors International.