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Tue, Jan 05, 2010

Best Of The Breed '09: Final -- GA Turbine (Jet) Cessna Mustang

Enough Of The Excuses... Here Are Our Final Decisions On The Best Birds Of The Year

Final Compilations by ANN Editor-In-Chief/Roving Aeronaut, Jim Campbell

Each year, we put our heads together, look over reader input as well as our own reports and other sources of info and try to recognize the VERY BEST aircraft in a number of pivotal categories. This particular series will cover the aircraft we consider to be the VERY BEST of the whole breed.

The following award categories have been established:

  • E-LSA Kit Category
  • S-LSA RTF (Ready To Fly) Category
  • Amateur-Built/Experimental Kit Category
  • GA Piston-Single Engine Category
  • GA Piston-Twin Engine Category
  • GA Turbine-Single Engine (Turboprop)
  • GA Turbine-Multi Engine (Turboprop)
  • GA Turbine (Jet)
  • Plane Of The Year (The Best Of Them All -- Regardless of Category)

Each year, the choices get tougher. Worse; we tend to also make it more difficult by tightening the reins on the decision making process so that it gets harder and harder to make the cut as the best in any category, much less wind up at the top of the pack as our Overall Plane Of The Year selection.

As this year came to a close, we also made some additional decisions as to what constitutes a "Best of Breed" and how wide we wanted to cast the net and wound up adding some categories to recognize some birds that truly deserved the nod. As noted in past years, it struck us that naming an overall "best" aircraft across the entire spectrum of general (or sport) aviation is probably no longer reasonable. Which isn't to say that we won't make a selection... but that we reserve the right not to do so if no specific aircraft steps to deserve the title. There are simply too many aircraft that have distinguished themselves in too many outstanding ways for one to readily be called better than the other on an overall basis. One man's perfect high-speed Hot-Rod, for instance, becomes the expensive "way too hot to handle" mistake of another pilot whose mission requirements may differ markedly. So... we're going to cop out -- just a bit, mind you. From here on out, we will name the best aircraft in individual categories, and reserve the right in the future to whittle down those categories as necessary which means that MAYBE we WON'T name an overall winner each year... and MAYBE  we will -- we're picky that way. The fact of the matter is that no one airplane is all things to all pilots, and within the spectrum that we have decided on, these are the aircraft selections that truly impressed us in each of the chosen categories -- and that each year, MAYBE there will be an overall winner... and MAYBE not.

Are we absolutely (crystal) clear on this now (grin)?

Let me also note that while aircraft that previously were named Best Of Breed in any category, or overall, are eligible for inclusion in this year's list, we have decided to make it more difficult (in our judging protocols) for a previous winner to take the top spot in our judging criteria, so that a repeat winner truly earns the distinction (and frankly, that hasn't happened in a while). And finally... we totally reserve the right to weasel out a bit and name more than one winner in a category where the margin of victory is simply too close (or subjective) to call.

That said, herewith our selections for ANN's 2009 Plane of The Year -- GA Turbine (Jet) Engine

Cessna Citation Mustang

To the victor goes the spoils... and that may never be more descriptive of the prominence of Cessna's mighty mite bizjet, the Cessna Mustang. Once put forth to counter the VLJ offerings of companies like Eclipse and Safire, the Mustang is more than the only survivor, it is the epitome of what one's first jet could be and should be... cost-effective (surprisingly so, we understand, in consult with operators), obedient, easy to fly and boasting the leading edge of the many technologies we expect from today's GA revolution... especially when you're buying from Cessna.

While the Safire never was and barely 250 Eclipse 500s got in the air before the doors were shut, the Mustang has been and continues to be a bright shining star for Cessna and a no-risk proposition. Owners are over the moon with their aircraft... and many are already looking forward to buying bigger and better bizjets having been sold on the breed by the manners of the Mustang and the unequaled customer support afforded them by Cessna's fanatical Citation support geeks.

Cessna's littlest bizjet does nearly 400 mph and requires but 3110 feet of runway, before blasting off to low earth orbit and a service ceiling of 41,000 feet. Six seats, 1150 nautical mile range, the latest G1000 cockpit (with Synthetic Vision), and miserly 1460 pound thrust PW 615F engines make for a solid performer that may be small in stature but 'takes no prisoners' where it counts... in delivering bang for the buck.

Our own flying experience was an eye opener.. on a somewhat (OK, more than somewhat) dreary Wichita day when the best that I see at takeoff and landing was about 300 feet and a half mile vis. Despite that, and while hand flying the beast the entire time, the feeling was of solid comfort, easy handling and a steady confidence was spurred on by a cockpit that gave me plenty of info and situational awareness (and operated just like the G1000s that I had used in numerous piston singles... making the transition a non-event).

The Mustang is a sweetheart to fly... while airplanes like this are built to do serious business, I have to admit that the machine is just plain fun to fly -- no bad habits, no touchy behavior -- just pure solid jet goodness. Yeah, this thing is as impressive as hell -- and if I hit the lottery...

Well, enough of that... if you've looking to make the move up form high-performance pistons or turbo-props, your journey for new wings should begin (and will probably end) in one place... with the Cessna Mustang. And until I hit the lottery, if any ANN reader with a Mustang needs a co-pilot, call me... I am SO available. Highly recommended.



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