Cessna Aircraft is moving forward aggressively with the development of its newest Citation, the M2, beginning this month a planned nine-month flight test program that should culminate in certification and customer deliveries in mid-2013.

The initial M2 prototype flew for the first time March 9 and in the subsequent week completed 10 trials, logging about 20 hr. “The aircraft performance, handling characteristics and Garmin G3000 avionics were exceptional,” said Peter Fischer, Cessna engineering test pilot after the first flight.

The initial flight included tests of the avionics systems, autopilot, engine systems, aircraft systems and instrument approach. Subsequent flights involved taking the aircraft to altitude, engine restarts and other basic tests, says Brian Steele, program manager for the Mustang and M2.

The subsequent flights have been “very clean,” adds Steele, saying “there have been no real surprises.” Any issues have been pretty benign, enabling the company to focus on “customer satisfiers” and human factors issues, he says.

While not initially considered a conforming airframe, the aircraft will serve as a conforming platform for testing of the Garmin G3000 avionics and Williams FJ44-1AP-21 turbofan engines, which will be its primary role in the certification program. The certification program will involve only one other aircraft, which is expected to join the program in May. The second aircraft will be used for aerodynamics testing.

The streamlined program, involving fewer aircraft and a timetable that is six-eight months shorter than a typical certification program, comes as Cessna is placing more emphasis on bringing aircraft to market expeditiously.

This approach has challenged the team to take a closer look at its approach to certification, he says, adding that company leaders “turned the team loose” to “be a little creative” to develop means to achieve its certification goals.

Cessna, which has a long history of bringing new aircraft to market, is able to rely on data already gathered in previous certification projects to move the project forward. One of the biggest issues will be the availability of FAA resources during the program. The aircraft will be certified under Part 23.

“The Citation M2 development team is focused on bringing this program to maturity, and their dedication is reflected in the speed in which the program is moving forward,” says Brian Rohloff, business leader for the Mustang and M2.

Production lines are expected to begin in the fourth quarter, and the company is still evaluating whether the work will be done in Wichita or at its factory in Independence, Kansas, where the single-pistons and Mustangs are produced. Rohloff says a decision on production is expected shortly, but that it will be done somewhere in Kansas.

The aircraft, announced shortly before the National Business Aviation Association’s annual meeting and convention last fall, is designed to bridge the gap between Cessna’s Citation Mustang and its venerable CJ family. Priced at $4.195 million in 2012 dollars, the M2 also will compete head on with Embraer’s Phenom 100. The aircraft will seat two crew and up to six passengers, fly at 400 kt. true airspeed and have a 1,300-nm range.