Cessna Citation I/II/V family

This is the classic, original Cessna Citation series, which was started in the late 1960s, first as the Fanjet 500, later renamed Citation I. The Citation I formed the basis for a whole family of aircraft that would continue to be produced until far in the 21st century. The concept of a small private jet that could land and take off from small airstrips was new then, and resulted in thousands of aircraft being built of many different versions.

All have in common straight wings, engines at the rear of the fuselage and a horizontal tail plane attached to the lower part of vertical stabiliser. The horizontal stabilizer has a V shape, with a noticable dihedral. In front of the vertical fin is a long dorsal fin. The cabin windows have a characteristic Citation shape: a vertical ellipse, with the top and bottom cut off. Also note the relatively large cockpit windows, with a small triangular window on the left side.

The large cockpit windows of the classic Citation series, with a small triangular side window on the left side.

The horizontal stabilisers of the Citation I/II/V family are mounted low on the vertical stabiliser and have a noticeable dihedral.

Typical Citation cabin windows: vertical ovals that are squared off at the top and bottom.

Different versions

To differentiate between the different subtypes you have to look at

  • the length of the fuselage
  • the number of the cabin windows
  • the shape of the engine nacelles
  • the shape of the main landing gear
  • the shape of the wings
  • the shape of the nose

Cessna 500 Citation I & Cessna 501 Citation I/SP

The first version has four cabin windows on both sides. The Citation I/SP is certified according to different rules that allow the aircraft to be flown by one pilot. ‘SP’ stands for ‘single pilot’. Cessna 500s can be converted into 501s and vice versa, but this conversion cannot be observed from the outside. Thrust reversers, recognisable from their streamline bodies at the end of the nacelle, are optional for the Citation I and I/SP.

The smallest of the original Citation series is the Citation I, with four cabin windows on each side.

Detail of standard Citation I nacelle, with a protruding tail pipe, but no thrust reverser.

Detail of the wings near the roots, for comparison with those of the Citation Eagle conversions.

Citation I nacelle with thrust reverser. This is optional.

Citation Eagle & Citation Eagle SP

In the late 1970s Astec improved the performance of the Citation I and I/SP, including a wingspan increasing (Longwing modification), changing the airfoil at the wing root and using more powerful JT15D engines. Especially the thicker wing root profile is clearly visible. Converted Citation Is are referred to as Citation Eagle, and Citation I/SPs as Eagle SP. The programme was later offered by Sierra Industries, but seems to be terminated.

Detail to show the thicker wing root of the Citation Eagle/Eagle SP.

Citation FJ44 Eagle II

Sierra Industries continued the development of the Citation Eagle and replaced the Pratt & Whitney JT15D engines with Williams FJ44s. These engines are clearly identified by the oil cooler intake at the lower part of the engine nacelle. They have no thrust reversers.

Citation FJ44 Eagle II, a Citation I with the Eagle wing modifications and different engines.

Detail of engine nacelle of Citation FJ44 Eagle II, with a small oil cooler inlet under the air intake for the FJ44 engines.

Cessna 550 Citation II & Cessna 551 Citation II/SP

The Citation II and II/SP are externally equal to the Citation I and I/SP, except that they are a bit longer. This is visible in the six windows on each side. Just like with the 500/501 there is a single pilot version of model 550, designated as Model 551. Like on the Citation I and I/SP thrust reversers are optional. Both models have straight leading edges of the wings and straight main landing gear legs, unlike later versions described below. 

The Swedish military designation for the Citation II is Tp103.

A full view of a Cessna 550 Citation II, with six cabin windows, but without thrust reversers.

The straight, non trailing link main landing gear of Citation II is better visible on this photo.

This detail photo shows the straight leading edge of the Citation II wings.

Cessna 550 Citation Bravo

Looking at the official designation you can already see that this is a further development of the Citation II. The main differences are the engines and the landing gear. Recognising the Citation Bravo by its engines is not simple, although they all have thrust reversers. However, the trailing link system of the main landing gear instead of a straight leg is a clear recognition point.

At first the Cessna 550 Citation Bravo looks the same as the Citation II.

Detail of the trailing link main landing gear of the Citation Bravo.

Cessna S550 Citation S/II

The Citation S/II has the same fuselage as the Citation II, but has a different wing: there is a bend in the wing’s leading edge, at around a quarter of the wingspan from the fuselage. Of course you can see this best when looking at the aircraft from above or below. 

The Cessna S550 is the only six cabin window Citation with swept inner wings.

The bend in the wings leading edges is the recognition point of the Citation S/II.

Cessna 560 Citation V & Citation Ultra

The Citation S/II could be made a little longer, resulting in the Citation V, that has seven windows on each side, compared to six for the Citation S/II. It has the same bend in the leading edge as the S/II. 
The second generation of Model 560, marketed as Citation Ultra, received new avionics compared to the Citation V and has a better performance. Nothing of this can be noticed on the outside.

The American military designations for the Citation Ultra are UC-35A (US Army) and UC-35C (US Marines).

A Cessna 560 Citation Ultra, with seven cabin windows.

Like the Citation II the Citation V and Citation Ultra have straight main landing gear legs.

Cessna 560 Citation Encore & Citation Encore+

The Citation Ultra received new Pratt & Whitney engines and a trailing link landing gear (like on the Citation Bravo). This model was sold as the Citation Encore. As you can see in the official designation, the Encore is also a descendant of the Citation V, with seven windows.
This model 560 flies with the US Marines as UC‐35D, and with the US Army as UC-35B.

A cockpit upgrade for the Citation Encore resulted in the Citation Encore+, but of course you cannot see that difference from the outside.

This is a Cessna 560 Citation Encore, with a trailing link main landing gear.

Detail of the main landing gear of the Citation Encore+ (which is the same for the Encore).

T-47A (Cessna 552)

The US Navy once flew the military version of the Citation S/II, designated as T-47A. This had the Cessna 552 model number and could be recognised by the longer radar nose.

The US Navy used the Citation S/II as a flying class room, designated T-47A. (photo: US Navy/WikiMedia)

Confusion possible with

Cessna Citation Excel/XLS

citation xls

While the Citation Excel series has the wing and tailplane of the classic Citation family, it has the fuselage of the Citation III, thus with different cockpit windows and nose. Addi­tionally, the Excel family has ventral fins. This should be enough for distinction.

Cessna Citation CJ family


The CitationJet/Citation CJ family is the successor of the Citation I/II/V series. Essen­tially it is the original Citation with a T-tail, although there are more differences. Still, if you don't see the tail you might mix up the original and newer Citation family.