Cessna has delivered nearly 350 Citation Sovereigns since we first flew the aircraft a decade ago. Operators say it's one of the most versatile performers in the business jet fleet. It is routinely able to operate from 4,000-ft. runways at low elevation airports, and has by far the best hot-and-high airport performance of any 3,000-nm class corporate aircraft. Typically equipped, it can carry six passengers with full fuel.

The main seating area, between the cockpit divider to aft lavatory bulkhead, is about 19 ft. long. Thus, the cabin has the most volume of any Citation yet certified. So, it has ample room for double club seating, plus one or two side-facing chairs next to the forward, right side galley. Operators praise Cessna for building an aircraft that offers passengers so much cabin comfort and yet is able to fly so far from such short runways.

“It was our owner's decision. Runway performance was all important and we fly five to six passengers on average, says Keith Winkelmann who flies s.n. 210 for Cockrell Resources. The Houston-based air charter firm also operates five Learjet 45s, a Bombardier Challenger 300 and a Dassault Falcon 2000. “Passenger and pilot comfort, takeoff performance and baggage capacity are some of my favorite features,” he says of the Citation.

“It has spectacular performance,” says Nick Eliopoulos who flies s.n. 008, the first Sovereign delivered to a U.S. customer. “We are based at Norwood, Mass. It has a 4,008-ft. runway. We previously operated a CJ2. Sovereign is the biggest airplane we can fly out of Norwood. So it's the only real player.” You would have to step up to a $27 million 2014 Falcon 2000S to have the same combination of range, payload and runway performance as a vintage 2004 Sovereign.

Citation Sovereign is a niche aircraft that offers more cabin volume and longer range than most midsize aircraft, but lacking the interior volume, speed and range of a super midsize jet, such as Challenger 300/350, Hawker 4000, Embraer Legacy 500 or Gulfstream G280. It shares its midsize fuselage cross section with the 1978 Citation III, VI, VII, Excel and X, each of which has its own special blend of performance, cabin comfort and operating economics.

All midsize Citations have a cabin cross section that is 5.5-ft. wide by 5.7 ft.-high with a 13-in. wide dropped aisle. The Sovereign's main cabin is slightly more than 24-ft. long from the cockpit divider to the aft pressure bulkhead, the longest of any current production Citation. The second generation Citation X, however, will have a slightly longer interior tube.

In the late 1990s, Cessna launched the Sovereign development program to have an aircraft that would compete against the then best-selling $13.2 million Hawker 800XP. The legacy Hawker afforded best-in-class midsize passenger comfort, excellent reliability and attractive operating economics. The Citation Excel didn't have the range, payload or cabin volume to compete directly against it.

Hawker 800XP's Achilles' heel, though, was its lackluster runway performance, especially when departing hot-and-high airports. It also had no external baggage compartment, so most luggage had to be toted up the air stair and stored in a closet in the vestibule.

Russ Meyer, then Cessna's chairman and CEO, saw an opportunity to best the Hawker in several areas. His engineering department fit the Sovereign with a huge, but modestly swept, mildly super-critical wing, along with under-stressed Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206C engines and classically simple Citation systems. The result was an aircraft offering more cabin volume, considerably better runway performance and 300 more nm range than the Hawker 800XP. It was equipped with a 100 cu. ft. aft, external baggage compartment offering twice the volume of the Hawker's vestibule closet. Sovereign also could accommodate another 35 cu. ft. of luggage inside the cabin. Meyer priced the Sovereign at $13.4 million.

“Versatility is this aircraft's strong suit,” Meyer told BCA in 2003. “Sovereign has respectable speed, Mach 0.74 to 0.75 at high altitude. It has transcontinental (U.S.) range and it can routinely operate out of 4,000- to 4,500-ft. strips.”