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Winglet firm to test modified Citation X with flight from Anchorage to Miami

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, at 9:33 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, at 10:16 p.m.

A Wichita winglet design firm plans to set a transcontinental speed record this week in a modified Cessna Citation X, the world’s speediest business jet in operation.

The plane is retrofitted with Winglet Technology’s unique elliptical winglets – upturned extensions that fit on top of the wing – enhancing the jet’s performance, said Winglet Technology president Bob Kiser.

Kiser plans to take the plane 3,470 miles nonstop from one corner of North America to another – Anchorage to Miami. That’s farther than the manual says the jet is able to handle nonstop.

“This is pushing the airplane to its limits,” Kiser said. Without the winglets, the plane could not fly that kind of distance, he said.

The nonstop flight from Anchorage to Miami is expected to take 7 to 71/2 hours with an average true airspeed of more than 500 knots, or 575 miles per hour, Kiser said.

The purpose of the trip is to demonstrate the performance improvements the winglets provide, he said.

The winglets, which reduce drag on the airplane, reduce the time it takes for the Citation X to climb to altitude, allow it to fly at higher-than-normal altitudes, and allow it to fly faster at higher altitudes.

They also extend the aircraft’s range, Kiser said.

The plane will carry three passengers, including Kiser, Fred George, senior editor of Business and Commercial Aviation, and Randy Nelson, former vice president of advanced design at Cessna, who was the chief aerodynamicist at the time the Citation X was developed. Al Larson and Chuck Feaga will pilot the aircraft.

The group plans to leave Wichita on Thursday, then leave Anchorage for Miami on Friday or Saturday, depending on winds.

They’re hoping for favorable tailwinds, which are typical when flying to the east, to help make the long trip to Miami.

If successful, the flight will set a speed record for the Anchorage-Miami city pair, which to date has not been set in that class of airplane.

The record will be certified by the National Aeronautic Association, the official record-keeper for U.S. aviation.

The NAA is one of the founding members of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the international organization responsible for the certification of all aviation and space records in the world.

After reaching Miami, the group will fly the Citation X to Orlando, where the plane will be on display during the 65th annual National Business Aviation Association’s convention and exhibition, which begins Tuesday.

The show is the world’s biggest business jet convention.

Winglet Technology, which designs and certifies winglets, was founded in 2001 by Kiser, a Wichita native who spent nearly 20 years at Boeing’s modification center in Wichita.

The company has been working with Cessna on the winglet for the Citation X for several years.

The first Citation X business jet retrofitted with the winglets was delivered in 2009.

Since then, 62 have been sold.

A winglet retrofit kit costs $415,000. Cessna service centers install the kit for $178,000.

Winglet Technology’s sister company, Jayhawk Aviation, owns the Citation X making this week’s trip. After the flight, the airplane will be for sale.

Jayhawk Aviation buys and refurbishes used Citation X business jets, then sells them.

The company also helps those interested in buying used Citation X jets with pre-buy inspections and evaluations. It also performs due diligence for the buyer and organizes a refurbishment of the airplane.

Jayhawk Aviation was formed after fractional ownership company NetJets began selling some of its Citation Xs.

“We saw NetJet airplanes coming into the marketplace,” Kiser said. “With a little bit of TLC, these will make a Citation X customer a very nice aircraft for many years to come.”

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com.

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