019 - Single Pilot Jets

In this episode, we discuss single pilot jets such as the Mustang, Citation, Eclipse, Phenom, and Premier. Then Don talks about how you can become a jet aircraft pilot. Plus, aircraft ownership news, the tip of the week, and your feedback.

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Single Pilot Jet Show Notes

When it comes to single pilot jets today, we have a lot of choices, from the Citation 500 series to the Hawker/Beechcraft Premier, the Embraer Phenom, the Eclipse Jet, and the new Cirrus Vision Jet, but it wasn’t always that way. Since day 1, the FAA has always treated jets differently. For one, most corporate jets were certified under FAR Part 25, transport category with a MTOW of 12,500 pounds or more. Aircraft certified in the transport category are traditionally required to have two qualified pilots up front regardless of if the airplane was jet powered.

Until 1977, the FAA required all jet powered aircraft regardless of weight to be operated by two pilots. What happened in 1977? Well, Cessna received certification from the FAA for a single-pilot variant of its entry level Citation I, dubbed the Citation I-SP. The aircraft was less than 12,500 pounds and met a number of other stipulations outlined by the FAA including placement of the gear handle, a fully functioning autopilot, and the use of a hands-free communication.

Soon after certification of the Citation I-SP came the Citation II-SP. Owners, operators, and pilots saw the massive benefits operating their jets single pilot had – from increased flexibility, to lower costs, and greater capacity. However, at this point, single-pilot certification of aircraft was given on a case-by-case basis, as the aircraft manufacturer had to demonstrate the to the FAA  that the aircraft’s workload could be handled safety by a single pilot. But newer aircraft, such as the Citation 525 CJ series, the Premier, and even larger turboprops like the big King Airs has similar workloads, but were above the 12,500 pound threshold between part 23 and part 25 certified aircraft. As a result, the FAA was forced to re-think their certification strategies.

Jet aircraft under 12,500 pounds, such as the Citation Mustang, M2, CJ, CJ1, CJ2, and Eclipse Jet can be flown single pilot as they are single pilot certified. However, aircraft above 12,500 pounds, such as the CJ3, CJ4 and Premier are able to be flown single pilot, but the pilot must obtain a single-pilot type rating and meet other criteria outlined by the FAA.

We’ve shared a few ideas in the past of how to achieve this safely and cost-effectively, and in a few minutes, Don’s going to share some more insights with you about how to do this.

So let’s shift our attention to some of these aircraft. We’ve already talked about the Citation 500 and 550 aircraft, so let’s talk about the Cessna Citation 510 Mustang. The Mustang is a 6-place aircraft with club cabin seating in the VLJ segment. It sells between $1.3-3.3 million. It’s the  G-1000 cockpit, FADEC, and mechanical controls. It’s powered by 2 Pratt 615F turbofans producing 1460 pounds of thrust. It’ll cruise at Mach 0.63 or about 340 knots at altitudes up to 40,000 feet. It has a MTOW of 8,645 pounds.

Then there’s the Citation 525 CJ series. The original CJ was the predecessor of the Mustang came out in the 90s. The CJ was replaced by the upgraded CJ 1 and elongated CJ2, called the 525A. Then came the CJ3 and finally the CJ4 in 2010. Each model came with a myriad of changes and upgrades made along the way from FADEC engines, glass cockpits, and improved cabins. The aircraft prices range from about 750,000 to over 8.5 million depending on the model. Taking the CJ2 for example, the aircraft has 2 Williams FJ44 engines capable of 2490 pounds of thrust each, 420 knots, about 1700 nautical miles range, a capacity for up to 9 and a MTOW of 12,500 pounds.

Next, let’s look at the Beechcraft Premier. The Premier was Beechcraft’s answer to the light jet and VLJ segment. The aircraft can seat up to 8 comfortably for about 1500 nm at 460 knots. The aircraft is powered by two FJ44’s producing about 2300 pounds of thrust each with a service ceiling of 41,000 feet. The aircraft’s MTOW is 12,500 and ranges between $1 to 3.5 million.

Next, let’s look at the Eclipse Jet.  Now this is a really cool airplane and a real game changer as it was the first VLJ. Introduced in 2006, the Eclipse Jet was meant to be a true private pilot’s jet. Unfortunately, as many of you know, Eclipse had some big problems early into the project leaving a lot of people high and dry. But the Eclipse 500 could fly 370 knots for 1100 miles at a ceiling of 41,000 feet. The MTOW of this aircraft is 5,950 pounds. Today the airplane is worth anywhere between $399,000 to about a million dollars. Then came the improved variant, the Eclipse 550, capable of flying about 375 knots at 41,000 feet for about 1200 miles. The aircraft has room for a total of 6 and has a MTOW of 6,000 pounds. It’s powered by 2 Pratt and Whitney PW615F engines. The Eclipse Jets are the only aircraft in their class with an auto throttle system and side stick controls. The 550 ranges in price between $899,000 to about $3 million.

Of course there are other aircraft in this category such as the Phenom 100 and 300 and the new Cirrus Vision Jet, but those aircraft are beyond the scope of this episode. Anyways, I hope this gives you a better understanding of your options with single pilot jets. 


Welcome to The Airplane Intel Podcast, the weekly General Aviation podcast for aircraft owners, operators, pilots and mechanics. We deliver practical advice, tips and strategies to make aircraft ownership simple, safe and cost effective.