Cessna Aircraft has flown the first production model of the new Citation Sovereign, beginning the production flight-test program about six months after unveiling the upgraded aircraft.

Cessna introduced the new Sovereign during the National Business Aviation Association’s annual meeting and convention in Orlando, Fla., in October, but the program had long since been under way.

In fact, the aircraft is expected to reach market in the third quarter, a few months ahead of the Citation X upgraded variant, even though that aircraft was announced two years earlier. The programs share some commonality, and some of the development is being conducted alongside each other, such as the new Garmin 5000 avionics suite that will be installed on both aircraft. Both aircraft will also be fitted with winglets and auto throttles. The Sovereign will have a 3,000-nm range, be able to reach speeds of 458 kt., and climb direct to 45,000 ft.

The first production flight, which lasted about 2 1/2 hr., involved testing the new avionics package and auto throttles, autopilot, engine system, aircraft systems and instrument approaches. The company says aircraft characteristics and systems performance were as expected. But the aircraft already has been well tested – Cessna has logged more than 1,300 hr. in three flight-test aircraft articles.

The production flight departed and landed at Mid-Continent Airport (ICT) in Wichita, home of Cessna’s main manufacturing facility. Cessna had rolled out the first production new Sovereign about a month ago.

Cessna has ended production of the original Sovereign. Scott Donnelly, chairman and CEO of Cessna parent Textron, told analysts this month that the five remaining legacy Sovereigns have been sold and the company did not expect any deliveries this quarter as it switches to the new aircraft. Similarly, Cessna does not plan to deliver any original X aircraft in the second quarter.

The Sovereign is one of six updated or new models that Cessna is bringing to market this year. The X is expected to follow later in 2013. The first production model came off the assembly line just a few weeks ago. The all new M2, a Mustang step-up, should reach market around the same time as Sovereign. In its single-engine lines, Cessna has already begun delivery of the new, more powerful Caravan and is working on an improved Corvalis – the TTx – and a diesel version of the Cessna 182 Skylane.