Cessna is today celebrating the 40th anniversary of the maiden flight of the Citation - the first aircraft in what has become the largest fleet of business jets in the world.

On 15 September 1969, pilot-in-command Milt Sills and co-pilot JL LeSueur flew the first Citation prototype from Wichita's Municipal Airport (now Mid-Continent Airport). The 1h 45min flight was a significant milestone in bringing the company's first business jet to market. US certification was awarded in September 1971 leading to first deliveries in January 1972.

Cessna Citation Columbus 

 Credit: Cessna Citation

Cessna had unveiled a mock-up of the aircraft in October 1968, originally calling it the Fanjet 500. The concept was to offer a growing population of business travellers an aircraft that was an easy transition for twin-engine turboprop pilots and a quieter, simpler, safer and less expensive option than other business jets on the market. At a price of about $695,000, the Citation offered a maximum cruise speed of 349kt (646km/h) true air speed in a six-passenger, pressurised, turbofan-powered business jet with short take-off and landing requirements.

Days before the prototype's first flight, Cessna settled on a more distinctive name for the jet - Citation - to evoke the extraordinary combination of abilities that propelled the thoroughbred racehorse by the same name to win the elusive Triple Crown in 1948, says the Wichita-based airframer.

Cessna has delivered more than 6,000 Citation models worldwide. The current family line-up includes the Mustang very light jet, CJ1+, CJ2+ and CJ3 light jet, superlight XLS+, mid-size Sovereign and high-speed Citation X. The CJ4 light business jet is scheduled to enter service in 2010.

Source: Flight International