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Stepping up to a jet

Get more out of flying by taking the next step

Upgrading from a single-engine turboprop to a jet with two engines brings more of everything you want—more speed, more space, more confidence, more quiet. It also means additional training, certifications and added costs. For Antoine Leblond, a software engineer from Seattle, Washington, the investment in time, effort and money was well worth it.

Leblond learned to fly ten years ago, and since then has owned and operated three different aircraft—a single-engine Beechcraft® Bonanza® A36, Socata TBM700 and a recently-acquired 2014 Cessna® Citation® M2® jet.

“I always wanted to fly, and I always felt like I never had the time. Finally, 10 or so years ago, I realized that if I’m ever going to do this, I should just carve out the time to do it,” he said.

A need for speed

Although Leblond enjoyed flying his Bonanza, he wanted to fly longer legs, so he opted for a single-engine turboprop, the TBM700. A short time later, an increasing need for speed propelled Leblond into a Citation M2.

Travel from Seattle to San Francisco

  • *Travel from Seattle to San Francisco (0 Knots wind)

“The TBM, in some sense, was a game changer for me. It was an airplane I could really travel in. Once you start traveling, you start finding yourself wanting more speed, more room, more range and the ability to get over more weather. And, in Seattle, I travel up and down the coast a lot. In the winter, in the TBM, I got beat up by the headwinds when flying north back home. I found myself realizing that another 100 knots or so of speed would make a really big difference. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I moved up the to the Citation M2.”

With the jet’s range and faster speed, Leblond and his family can now travel greater distances. “Because of the speed, we’re more inclined to travel cross-country. I did West Coast to East Coast trips in the TBM, but it’s a bit far for that aircraft, especially heading westbound with the headwinds,” he said.

More space, more comfort

Second to speed, Leblond wanted a more comfortable cabin for his family, especially for the longer trips. The jet provided the additional room, comfort and features they needed.

“The idea of having more comfort with more space in the cabin and it being quieter, as well as not having to wear a headset in the cabin, that’s all very compelling to me and to my family, in particular. The fact that it’s a more comfortable airplane is a big deal. It’s probably a bigger deal for my family of four, for sure. The first question they all ask is, ‘Is there a lav in it?’” he said.

More confidence

For pilots flying over water and mountains, the redundancy of a second engine translates into added confidence. Two engines give the aircraft the power to climb higher for a smoother ride over some adverse—even dangerous—weather, which was especially important to Leblond.

“When you start flying cross-country, you end up crossing a lot of weather. Being able to fly higher is a huge benefit. There’s a lot of weather at 30,000 feet when you’re in a TBM that you won’t see at 40,000 feet in a Citation,” he said.

Doing the research

Even though Leblond immediately liked the Citation, he didn’t immediately make a decision. He did his homework, researching aircraft options, specifications, performance and features—something he strongly advises every pilot to do. Eventually, Leblond narrowed his choices down to the Cessna Citation M2 and the Embraer Phenom 100.

“I think in the end, though, the performance numbers on the M2 were just clearly better, especially for the same price range. The M2 also has all the latest generation avionics,” he said.

Leblond also suggests pilots consider more than the aircraft’s features and performance, and look to who will provide the service and support.

“Cessna has such an amazing reputation for its customer support and its service infrastructure. That’s such a big piece of owning an airplane that it seemed like a no-brainer, frankly, to go with the Citation,” said Leblond.

“I highly recommend a demo flight. Once you fly a jet, you will immediately want one. The performance of these things is phenomenal. They’ll blow you away—the comfort and the quietness and the fact that you realize that they’re actually quite easy to fly.” Antoine Leblond, Seattle software engineer and Citation M2 owner

Understanding the cost

Before buying any aircraft, it’s important to understand the fixed and direct operating costs. Operating costs generally pertain to using the aircraft and include maintenance, repairs, fuel and landing fees. Fixed costs are associated with acquisition and ownership—the purchase price, taxes, insurance, hangar fees, training and avionics data services. Moving from a propeller aircraft to a jet can increase these costs, so owners should understand each cost and budget accordingly.

“When you buy a jet, you might look at the fuel burn and say, ‘Wow, that’s almost twice what I was burning in the TBM.’ But you do have to look at what you’re getting in terms of value. You’re going faster, so you’re covering more miles more quickly. In the end, there’s not a huge difference in terms of operating costs,” said Leblond.

“Even if it is more, it’s entirely worth the benefits that you get out of it—more speed, being able to fly higher, having two engines, more comfort. You have to ask yourself, ‘What do I want to get out of the aircraft?’”

Type training

Many pilots worry about the leap from a single-engine turboprop to an aircraft with jet engines. Once training is underway, the concerns generally fade, which is what happened to Leblond.

“In terms of the training and the systems, it’s not that big of a leap. In some sense, it’s not nearly the leap that moving from a Bonanza to the TBM was. Yes, the systems are more complicated and the airplane obviously is substantially faster, but I think it feels like a normal transition from most turboprops to smaller jets,” said Leblond, who has 1,500 hours of flight time.

“From my Bonanza to my TBM to my Citation, they’ve progressively gotten easier to fly. There’s less to manage in these bigger, faster aircraft. The systems are just much more automated. In the Citation, the FADEC makes engine management almost trivial. The operation is remarkably straightforward.” Antoine Leblond, Seattle software engineer and Citation M2 owner

Many pilots consider flying a turboprop good preparation for jet operation. “You’re dealing with the ATC system and other operational issues similarly—just things are happening a little faster in the Citation. Generally, the systems in jets are so well designed that they’re actually fairly straightforward airplanes to fly,” said Leblond. “If you can fly your TBM comfortably, you can absolutely fly one of these Citations comfortably. No question.”

When pilots move up to a jet aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration requires additional training that goes beyond the scope of their initial licenses and aircraft training. To operate his new Citation, Leblond earned the type rating specific to his model. It’s also the rating most CJ pilots hold, a single pilot CE-525S. He chose to train in Wichita, Kansas, at FlightSafety International, one of the best-known and well-respected aviation training companies in the world.

After a little more than two weeks, Leblond had a solid understanding of his jet's operation, along with a proper type certification.

“One of the biggest challenges of the transition is finding the time to fit in your training. The class was really, really good, and I really enjoyed it. The quality of the training was head and shoulders above what I’ve done in the past. The training program, the instructors, the material, the facilities, the simulators—all of it was very high quality and a very pleasant surprise,” said Leblond.

Sizing up insurance

Once jet pilots have their dream aircraft, they should protect themselves and their assets with insurance. The process for buying coverage on a jet is much the same as that for a piston or turboprop aircraft.

“Probably the most important thing is to have an established relationship with an insurance broker who knows your history and can represent you well to underwriters. The process is fairly straightforward. They’ll shop you around to different underwriters and see what they’re willing to do in terms of coverage, premiums and how much dual time they require,” said Leblond.

Underwriters require new jet pilots, even those with multi-engine aircraft experience, to log a minimum number of flight hours with mentor pilots—usually about 50 hours. Pilots who want to move directly from a non-complex, single-engine piston aircraft to a jet will likely need more than that.

“They all require some type of dual or mentor-pilot time as part of the transition process, which is fine and reasonable. Every underwriter will offer different things. You have to decide what works best for you,” said Leblond.

Pilots require just 50 hours jet time in order to receive full insurance coverage.

Leblond says the required dual time is invaluable to his training and the transition process.

“I get to learn from pilots who have thousands of hours of flight time. They have so much experience to share. That’s another reason to choose the Citation over the Phenom. There are so many people with all this amazing experience flying Citations—that’s a byproduct of the size of the fleet and the fact that the airplane has been around for a long time,” said Leblond.

“I love that there are a lot of people out there who I can go to, to do mentor piloting, to learn about the airplane. There’s just this great infrastructure built around these airplanes out there now. It’s a fantastic way to start your Citation jet ownership.”

“The Citation Jet Pilots owners’ group is a fantastic resource. A significant part of the ownership experience of these airplanes is owed to the quality of that group.” Antoine Leblond, Seattle software engineer and Citation M2 owner