The Cessna Citation CJ2+, the second-generation CJ2 intro–duced in 2005, is one of the most successful models in the CE525 CitationJet line-up. More than 200 CE525A-plus airplanes now are in service and operators say it has more in common with the $1 million-plus more-expensive CJ3 than the original CJ2 that made its debut in late 2000. Even the two instrument panels and avionics suites are virtually identical except for some standard equipment on the CJ3 that's optional on the CJ2+.

The CJ2+ can climb to FL 450 8 min. faster or 22% quicker than the original CJ2. That's within 1 min. of the CJ3's time to climb to FL 450. The original CJ2's climb performance also was significantly more degraded by warm day outside air temperatures than that of the CJ2+. The newer aircraft's climb performance is all the more impressive because it has a 125-lb. heavier MTOW. And the CJ2+ has slightly shorter takeoff field length distances than the CJ2, plus better second-segment climb performance due to a modest thrust-to-weight ratio improvement.

Once the CJ2+ levels off at FL 450, it will stay nose to nose with the CJ3, or actually inch ahead, at maximum cruise thrust, much to the surprise of many CJ3 pilots. On BCA's fixed distance 300-nm, 600-nm and 1,000-nm four-passenger missions, the CJ2+ and CJ3 usually finish in a virtual dead heat.

“The CJ2+ is the sweet spot in this series [of CJs],” says Tom Oreck, who operates s.n. 491, a 2012 model based in Asheville, N.C. “It's incredibly, thoughtfully designed, as good an airplane as I've ever flown. We can climb directly to FL 450, even in ISA+ temperatures, in 20 to 25 min., above the traffic and weather so we often get direct routing. It accelerates up to the [high-speed cruise] numbers and it sips fuel.” On a standard day, the aircraft can cruise at 375 to 400 KTAS at FL 450 while burning 673 to 690 lb./hr., according to Cessna's CJ2+ flight planning guide.

It's no surprise that the CJ2+ and CJ3 are such close performance competitors. Both aircraft are powered by Williams FJ44-3 turbofans. The engines on the CJ3 are rated at 2,820 lb. maximum thrust while those on the CJ2+ are “chipped” to 2,490 lb. for takeoff. That's simply a flat rating programmed into the FADECs of otherwise identical engines.

The CJ3's higher thrust, however, gives it better runway performance. Its larger wing also carries nearly 20% more fuel, enabling it to fly an extra 160 nm to 240 nm depending upon passenger load.

Both airplanes need a fuel stop when flying from the U.S. East Coast to West Coast against winter headwinds, so the CJ2+'s shorter legs aren't a shortcoming for many operators. The CJ2+ also has a cabin that's 2.1-ft. shorter than that of the CJ3, so it's noticeably more crowded when all six chairs in the main seating area are occupied.

Mission profile was paramount for many operators during their purchase evaluations. If they needed longer legs and room for six passengers, they were attracted to the CJ3. But for most people, the CJ2+ was a better match for their range/payload needs.

“I bought CJ3 s.n. 1 in February 2005. It was a magnificent airplane,” says Stuart Fred, who flies CJ2+ s.n. 489, which he purchased in December 2011. “But the $1.5 million difference in price between the CJ2+ and CJ3 buys a lot of fuel for the 260-nm loss of range.”

“If you're going to be flying more than 1,500 nm and carrying more than four passengers, then the CJ3 is a better fit,” says Casey Miller, president of Latitude 33 Consulting, a management firm in Carlsbad, Calif., that cares for nine CJs and one Citation Mustang.