Textron Aviation has rolled out the first production unit of its clean-sheet super midsize Citation Longitude. FAA certification is expected by the end of this year, with EASA approval set to follow in 2018. The first European customer has been named as Travel Service, as reported in EBAN last month. VP of sales for the EMEA region Tom Perry says that the operator is a 'classic' customer, and he expects to see uptake from the Middle East and Moscow too: "Travel Service is a public transport operator and currently operates Sovereigns. The Sovereign has served customers well, but what the Longitude will offer is that extra range and cabin comfort for passengers. They will be used to the double club configuration but they are really going to enjoy the wide body cabin experience. The aircraft is flying further so it has more amenities on board, including an inflight accessible baggage compartment.
"I haven't flown on it myself but I know a number of people that have who say it is the quietest Citation that they have ever experienced, and in many cases the quietest aircraft they have ever been on. That was a target we had in mind when we designed the aircraft, so it is great to get that customer feedback."
The first production aircraft, dubbed P7, is due to enter service in the summer months. This aircraft will join the company's demonstration fleet imminently and will travel the world to showcase its performance and interior. "We will be starting demo tours initially in the United States, but any European customers that would like to come over and see the aircraft will be very welcome," says Perry. "The P3 model came to EBACE and there was a long line of people to see it; it was one of the stars of the show."
The Middle East and Moscow are markets with great potential for Textron, as the Longitude is a wide body and, with a range of 3,500 nm, can connect London and Dubai. "The X+ could do it in the right conditions, whereas the Longitude will lap that up," he adds. "Moscow is typically a large cabin market, and up to now Russian clients have only been used to the more expensive and heavier ranges of aircraft, so this will be a cost-effective opportunity for them. But Malaga, Marbella and Palma will also be frequented, there is no doubt about it."
The Longitude production programme has used monolithic machining, whereby major assemblies are milled from a single piece of metal rather than assembled from smaller pieces. This reduces the number of parts and is designed to improve assembly efficiency.
The first Longitude flew in October 2016 and, to date, four test aircraft have accumulated more than 550 hours. A fifth aircraft will join the flight test programme this summer after which it is slated to enter service.
"The dedication of our team and the early success of our development programme demonstrates that we are not entering this super midsize space lightly," says senior VP of sales and marketing Rob Scholl. "We are confident that the Longitude will raise the bar in business aviation with its cabin comfort, low operating costs, long maintenance intervals and combination of speed and range."