Bravo to a beautiful jet
The Cessna Citation Bravo is undoubtedly one of Cessna’s all-time ‘Greatest Hits’ in the light-jet category. And it’s probably fair to say this applies right across the light-jet category, regardless of aircraft manufacturer. Benn Marks takes a look.
The aircraft boasts economic operating costs, simple-to-use systems, pilot-friendly handling characteristics, plus a sizeable enough passenger cabin for 1-4-hour hops. These features were pioneered and developed in preceding Citation jet models and further refined in those following the Bravo. In fact, much of the design DNA that infused the Bravo’s airframe came from its direct predecessor, the Citation II – yet another winning design from the Wichita-based company’s winning stable of light jets that first appeared on the business jet landscape at the end of the 1970s.
But when the Cessna C550(B) Citation Bravo (or CE-550-B in shorthand) appeared on the same landscape nearly two decades later (deliveries of the type commenced in 1997), it was basically a new beast. It packed newer, more powerful and fuel-efficient engines, updated avionics, plus a trailing link main undercarriage facilitating smoother landings. Up to 336 of the type were built before production wound up in 2006.
Being the impressive machine that it was (and still is), the Bravo earned its place on many operators’ books the world over. Although the aircraft might not be as advanced as some of today’s light-jet designs, it’s still an attractive asset for many charter outfits. It offers excellent performance and reliability and can carry up to seven passengers, making it a valuable asset for operators.
One such operator of the type in Australia is Revesco Aviation, based at Perth Airport in Western Australia. The owner-operated air charter and corporate jet hire specialist has had a Bravo on its books for three years now. In that time the aircraft has earned its stripes as a reliable executive passenger (and sometimes medevac) transport for the company’s clientele, flying both near and far.
“The Bravo’s used for private charters…we use it for corporate oil and gas, iron ore and gold mining charter flights, and we also use it for tourism flights down into the southwest of Western Australia, into Busselton. But it can fly anywhere really; Darwin, Kununurra, the east coast,” Revesco Aviation general manager and head of flight operations, Captain Peter Hillier, says. “We also go to Bali in it when we’re doing medevac flights, patient retrievals. So they’re the main things we use it for. We’ve also used the Bravo to fly nickel miners to remote sites, plus miners in the lithium, oil and gas and iron ore industries too. It’s been used to transport both mining and corporate personnel for pretty much all the mining sectors here.
“Quite often the aircraft will travel to three mine sites in one day, because a large mining company might want to go to three of its sites in one day. So rather than have to go to the site, come back to Perth, go to the site, come back to Perth, which they’d have to do with RPT, or their normal Fly in/Fly out (Fi/Fi) airlines, our clients can fly to three remote sites, or sometimes even fly into a port as well on the same day in the Bravo,” Hillier adds.
The company general manager and head of flight operations says that most of the mining sites the Bravo flies to in Western Australia are typically remote areas located up inland from Port Hedland, Karratha and Newman, roughly two hours flight time from Perth. However, the aircraft is sometimes dispatched to other remote locations with the gold mine at Telfer (approximately two hours’ flight time northeast of Newman), and Kalgoorlie being prime examples. Hillier adds that a small number of nickel and gold mines are also located a couple of hundred miles north of Kalgoorlie, so the jet gets about.
Regardless of the charter being flown however, having a nice cabin that passengers can sit comfortably in while airborne is non-negotiable, especially for a light jet; luckily for the Bravo it has one. The aircraft’s cabin dimensions are generous enough to accommodate up to seven passengers, all of whom can sit comfortably in an internal space that’s 4ft 7in high, 4ft 9in wide and 16ft long. Considering that some flights can last up to a few hours, the aircraft comes equipped with a fully enclosed flushing toilet in the rear. There is also a refreshment centre up front just opposite the main cabin door that contains a hot and cold beverage area (a little ice box, plus urn for tea/coffee), a well-equipped mini-bar, a little cupboard for glasses, plus drawers for trays of sandwiches. While at the other end, the Bravo’s rear baggage compartment can carry up to 200kg of luggage. A quick-change medical kit/life support system is also available for the aircraft. On such flights the aircraft will carry a stretcher and two medics, a doctor and nurse to the destination, with a patient plus one other sometimes carried on the return trip.
“Everyone we’ve ever taken in the Bravo has really enjoyed it. It’s not super roomy, but it’s got enough space to be comfortable. The seats can move out and forward, and tilt right back. So if you’ve only got four passengers, they can get themselves pretty comfortable. No complaints at all. With some companies we normally carry anywhere from 2-4 passengers, and up to a maximum of seven, especially for mining operations; we’ve a done a few trips with seven passengers for mining operations.” Hillier points out.
“There are actually seven cabin seats. It’s got a double-club seating arrangement and then a single forward-facing seat at the aft, and then just inside the door there’s one seat facing aft, opposite the galley. There are also two seats at the back facing forward. Our aircraft is the only Bravo in the world that’s got an approved jump seat; it swings all the way around, it can slide out into the isle and move forward. They’re not normal on any of these aircraft; we had it specially done to the aircraft because it was a training aircraft beforehand … from the factory.”
Passengers are certainly not left wanting in the Bravo, regardless of a charter flight’s length. Hillier says the Cessna jet normally cruises “at about 370-380 knots, which is not much below a Boeing 737” at an altitude of between 41-43,000ft with a maximum range of 1,700nm. To illustrate just some of the Bravo’s impressive specs, Hillier says the aircraft can bowl over a Perth – Port Hedland sector (706nm) in two hours 10 minutes (with seven pax); a Perth – Kalgoorlie leg (291nm) in 50 minutes (with seven pax); a Perth – Melbourne run (1,472nm) in three hours 50 minutes (with four passengers because of the larger distance), while a Perth – Darwin run (1,430nm) can be bowled over in four hours (again, with four pax because of the longer distance).
For pilots upfront, the joy of flying the zippy machine is assisted by a Honeywell Primus 1000 EFIS (Electronic Flight Instrument System) avionics equipped cockpit. Three glass EFIS screens form the centrepiece of the advanced system, which clearly presents all crucial information to the aviators. The Bravo has a maximum thrust of 5,774lbs at its disposal thanks to two Pratt & Whitney PW530A turbofans (2,887lbs thrust per side), providing the machine with some pretty impressive grunt. At MTOW, the aircraft hits the scales at 6,713kg, with Hillier adding: “Just about anywhere a King air can get into and out of a Bravo can.”
“It’s a very nice aircraft. I call it the Holden utility of aircraft because it’s very capable of carrying a good load over a good distance. It has enough room for baggage, and good enough comfort for passengers. Ours has an all-new interior, so it’s got all new leather seats, plus low noise levels for the passengers and that’s why corporate people quite enjoy it. It’s sort of fast enough to get you between places reasonably quickly. It’s also a very docile aircraft; it has nice, smooth handling characteristics and it’s very reliable. They just go and go and go. Not too much can go wrong with them because there are very simple systems in the design. It’s a great little aircraft,” Hillier points out.