Avionics Upgrade Options Growing for CitationJets

 - March 1, 2021, 6:00 AM
New STCs from Garmin, JetTech, and Columbia Avionics & Aircraft Services serve to modernize the Cessna CitationJet Model 525 cockpit with a GFC 600 autopilot and dual G600 TXi EFIS displays with synthetic vision. (Photo: Columbia Avionics)

As the earliest of the Model 525 Cessna CitationJet series approaches three decades in service, owners and operators of the single-pilot twinjets have a variety of flight deck modernization upgrade options available thanks to supplemental type certificate (STC) programs by avionics manufacturers and installation facilities.

Collins Aerospace was among the first to offer an integrated flight deck upgrade solution for the CJ3 with its Pro Line Fusion STC four years ago. More recently, Garmin jumped in with an upgrade solution for the earliest CJs—serial numbers 1-359—by way of an STC for its GFC 600 autopilot as well as avionics STCs from JetTech and Columbia Avionics & Aircraft Services.

Earlier, Honeywell Aerospace had planned to offer an avionics upgrade solution for the 525 with its AeroVue integrated flight deck product. But a Honeywell spokeswoman told AIN the partner that was intending to pursue AeroVue upgrades for these platforms had since made the decision not to move forward.

Garmin Upgrades

Lured by the fact that little attention had been paid to upgrading avionics in early series 525s, Broomfield, Colorado-based JetTech announced an upgrade package last fall for the CitationJet (CJ) with serial numbers 001 through 359. “We were finding with the age of the CJ that frankly, no one had touched those airplanes, so we got involved,” JetTech founder and partner/member Rob Irwin told AIN. Spurred by an upcoming STC for Garmin’s GFC 600 autopilot, JetTech offers an all-in upgrade package that in addition to the autopilot also includes two G600 TXi touchscreen primary flight displays, GTN650Xi/750Xi GPS/navcom, GTX 33/335/345/3000 transponders, GMA 35C audio panel, GDL 69A SiriusXM weather receiver, and Gi 275 standby instrument. Operators should budget about $275,000 for that package and expect about a 350-hour installation time. For those operators whose CJs already have GTNs —which Irwin said about 80 percent of the CJs have—the cost is a little less than $200,000 and installation time will be about 300 hours.  

Irwin said that once engine gauges can be displayed on the TXi display, JetTech plans to expand its upgrade package to include Collins Pro Line 21-equipped 525s with serial numbers 360 through 701.

In January, Columbia Avionics in Missouri announced FAA STC approval for a Garmin avionics package for CJs serial numbers through 359 as well. Columbia’s all-in package includes the same Garmin upgrades as JetTech’s—autopilot, flight displays, navigator, audio panel, transponder, and weather receiver—as well as GWX weather radar; GSR 56 Iridium satcom with weather, voice, and text; Shadin AIS 380 fuel flow system; an optional Stormscope WX-500 for lightning strike information; and Mid-Continent Instruments’ MD302 Standby Attitude Module, MD93 clock and USB charger, and TA102 USB charging ports.

Key benefits of the Garmin upgrades include the ability to fly fully coupled instrument approaches and go-arounds, including activation of the missed approach sequence. Also included is coupled VNAV, which greatly reduces pilot workload in high traffic areas while flying standard terminal arrival procedures.

Columbia Avionics president Lance Fox said the integration of the system went smoothly during the installation process. “We were able to go straight to FAA flight tests and the aircraft came back with zero issues,” he explained.

Cost of the system including installation varies depending on options, he said, and downtime is four weeks. Columbia Avionics is currently seeking STC approval from Transport Canada, EASA, Mexico’s DGAC, and other international regulators.

Pro Line Fusion

The sheer number of airplanes in the CJ fleet convinced Collins Aerospace to pursue Fusion avionics upgrades for the family of light Cessna twin jets. It starts with an STC for the Pro Line 21-equipped CJ2+ in April followed by STCs for the Fusion upgrade for the CJ1+ and CJ3, Nicole White, Collins senior director of business and regional avionics sales told AIN.

“There were a series of factors that went into our decision to focus on this fleet,” she said. “It's a very popular aircraft, which means there is a large enough addressable market for us to invest in making an aftermarket solution.” Other key factors were hull value, operator profile such as the mission of the aircraft as well as ease of integration with the existing flight deck and a solid certification base. “We partner very closely with the Citation Jet Pilots organization and host working groups with their constituents, so we understood what they were looking for, and our Fusion technology meets their most important requirements,” she said.

Since its introduction the Fusion upgrade for CJs has been fitted on nearly 40 CJ3s, White said. Two of the most significant advantages of the CJ3 Fusion upgrade are better situational awareness and reduced pilot workload, she said.

The Fusion upgrade replaces the Pro Line 21 portrait-oriented displays with three larger 14.1-inch touchscreen displays in landscape format. The package includes high-resolution synthetic vision as standard and Collins’s airport dome, which highlights the destination airport, and extended runway centerlines with mile markers to enhance situational awareness in all flying conditions. The configurable displays also allow pilots to save certain screens for different phases of flight or based on preference—meaning they aren’t having to set and reset the displays on every flight, White added. “[That] has been one of the biggest improvements we have heard from the CJ pilots using Pro Line Fusion today from a time savings standpoint,” she said.

The Fusion upgrade also supports the FAA’s NextGen program, providing operators not only with CPDLC capabilities—FANS in the U.S. and ATN B1 in Europe—but also digital departure clearances at 62 U.S. airports. ACARS/AOC data link messaging capability is a value-added option with the Fusion upgrade. Operators can also take advantage of lower minima with the improved accuracy of WAAS/LPV approaches, she said. “Today more than 4,000 LPV approaches are available, increasing access to more destinations. We are also working to finalize an STC update to bring SiriusXM weather capability to the field.”

Expanding Fusion Upgrades

Based on market feedback, there is interest from CJ1+ and CJ2+ operators to have that same technology in their Pro Line 21-equipped airplanes. Collins has responded by developing additional STCs for those aircraft and provided there aren’t any additional effects from Covid-19, the company expects FAA STC approval of the Fusion technology for the CJ2+ in the first quarter of this year with STCs for the CJ1+ and an amendment to the CJ3 following closely behind. “We have launch aircraft secured for both the CJ1+ and CJ2+ developments and we are really pleased with the volume of quoting occurring at both Textron’s service network and through our Collins dealer network, with operators interested in upgrading their aircraft in 2021 and beyond,” White said.  Collins also plans to pursue CJ1+ and CJ2+ STCs and CJ3 amendment approvals from Transport Canada and EASA.

Collins expects to improve aircraft downtime with the expansion of Fusion upgrades for the CJ. Customer feedback on the CJ3 program has prompted Collins to revisit Fusion installation design, and it now has a goal of reducing downtime by 50 percent, which would be three weeks, White said.

The upgrade is available through Collins’s authorized dealer network as well as at Textron Aviation service centers. Pricing for the Fusion upgrade in the CJ3 at a Textron Aviation service center is currently $299,700, according to Textron Aviation. Pricing for the CJ1+ and CJ2+ Fusion upgrades wasn’t yet available.

Other Avionics Options

For CitationJet owners not looking for an entire flight deck upgrade, there are products from Avidyne and Universal Avionics that can help add modern functionality.

Avidyne’s dual-hybrid-touchscreen IFD550/540 Series FMS/GPS/navcoms are approved for installation in the straight CitationJet and CJ1, 1+, 2, 2+, and 3 models equipped Pro Line 21 avionics and the FGC-3000 digital flight control system. The upgrade includes auto-coupled LPV approach capability, 3D synthetic vision, and wireless connectivity to third-party apps such as ForeFlight

The IFD550 and 540 include 16-watt VHF communication radios and dual VHF navigation and ILS capability, along with the option of dual Avidyne SkyTrax 322 remote-mount or SkyTrax 340 panel-mounted Mode-S transponders for ADS-B Out. 

Avidyne’s new Atlas FMS is undergoing certification and will be offered for larger Citations as well as other aircraft models. While Avidyne isn’t yet targeting the CJ market, a company spokesman told AIN, “We need to gather a little more market intel before investing in that effort.”

The Universal Avionics UNS-1K FMS was installed in the straight CitationJet and under an STC in some CJ1s, according to Robert Randall, director of strategic business development. Now Universal offers an STC to upgrade those UNS-1K FMSs to the modern UNS-1Lw, -1Ew, or -1Espw SBAS-FMS with LPV monitor.

A Columbia Avionics STC is also available to upgrade CJs with Universal’s EFI-890R flight displays with synthetic vision.

Universal Avionics is interested in speaking with CJ1 and CJ2 owners who are interested in a fully integrated Universal flight deck, Randall said. This would include Universal’s InSight avionics suite with synthetic vision and EGPWS, UNS-1Lw SBAS FMS, and CPDLC and digital clearance via the UL-801 Communications Management Unit and Universal cockpit voice recorder. The upgrade would retain the existing autopilot, flight director, and radios. Universal could also STC its SkyLens head-wearable display as part of such an upgrade.