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The ultimate competition between three of most common light jets on the market: the Embraer Phenom 300E, the Nextant 400XTi and the Cessna Citation CJ3+.

The Phenom 300E is the most modern aircraft here, with deliveries having started in 2018. The 400XTi and CJ3+ are older, with deliveries having started in 2014. Additionally, keep in mind that the 400XTi is built on the Beechjet 400A/XP, having been heavily modified and modernized. Learn more about the 400XTi here.

If you are flying by private jet, which is the best light jet to choose?

Embraer Phenom 300E exterior on ground with door open at sunset
Embraer Phenom 300E
Nextant 400XTi
Cessna Citation CJ3 Plus Exterior
Cessna Citation CJ3+


Firstly, cruise speed. This is a metric that is easy to understand and compare.

The Embraer Phenom 300E clearly wins this round with a fast cruise speed of 464 knots. Following closely in the Nextant 400XTi with a fast cruise speed of 447 knots. Lagging quite far behind is the CJ3+ with a fast cruise speed of 416 knots.

Is this difference going to be noticeable in the real world? Chances are not likely. Depending on the distance of the flight a more economical cruise speed may be required. However, even in these scenarios the CJ3+ will be slower than the other two – all things being equal. Furthermore, a higher cruise speed not only means a shorter journey but also less time on the airframe, engines and so on. Less time results in a higher pre-owned value and longer intervals between maintenance.

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The maximum range of each aircraft is virtually identical. The Nextant 400XTi comes last in this round with a maximum range of 2,003 Nautical Miles. With just 7 Nautical Miles of extra range the Phenom 300E is able to beat it. However, the clear winner here is the Cessna Citation CJ3+ with a maximum range of 2,040 Nautical Miles.

This gives each aircraft enough of a range to fly the distance from New York to Las Vegas (just).

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Take Off Distance

The take off distance is where the numbers start to diverge with the Cessna CJ3+ taking the crown, but only just.

It’s a close race between the Phenom 300E and the CJ3+, with just 29 feet difference in it. The Cessna Citation CJ3+ has a minimum take off distance of 3,180 feet. 29 feet behind is the Embraer Phenom 300E with a minimum take off distance of 3,209 feet. Quite a way behind we find the Nextant 400XTi, with a minimum take off distance of 3,821 feet.

This is an area that in the real world will potentially be noticeable. A shorter take off distance means that an aircraft can land at more airports. The more airports an aircraft can land at, the shorter your overall journey time will be. This is because you can land at an airport that is closer to your final destination.

A difference of 600 feet – in optimal conditions – is a plausible enough difference to consider the options closely depending on the airports that you wish to to fly to.

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Landing Distance

Minimum landing distance tells a different story. The Embraer Phenom 300E comes out well ahead of the other two aircraft. In this situation lower numbers are better

The Phenom 300E has a minimum landing distance of 2,212 feet. An impressively short landing distance. Quite a way behind the Phenom is the Cessna Citation CJ3+ with a minimum landing distance of 2,720 feet. Just behind this we once again have the Nextant 400XTi with a minimum landing distance of 2,898 feet.

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What makes the numbers we have just discussed even more impressive is when you take the capacity of the aircraft into consideration.

The Embraer Phenom 300E can carry up to 10 passengers – albeit in a slightly cramped manner. Next up is the Citation CJ3+ with a maximum passenger capacity of 9. Last is the Nextant with a maximum passenger capacity of 8.

In the real world it is highly unlikely that any of these aircraft will carry their stated maximum passenger capacity. The way the cabins are setup would make this a very cosy interior. However, the passenger occupancy rates will be proportional.

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When judging the interiors of these aircraft you must consider the amount of time that each aircraft has been in production. Namely that the Phenom 300E is a far more modern aircraft with production having started in 2018. The other two started production in 2014.

In terms of interior space the Phenom 300E comfortably wins this round with a cabin length of 5.23 meters. The 400XTi and CJ3+ are evenly matched with a cabin length of 4.72 meters and 4.78 meters respectively.

All the aircraft have similar widths – with 1.55 meters for the Phenom, 1.5 meters for the 400XTi and 1.47 meters for the CJ3+. Cabin height also tells the same story with 1.5 meters for the Phenom and 1.45 meters for both the Nextant and Cessna.

Embraer Phenom 300E interior cabin with blue and gray interior, window shades shut
Embraer Phenom 300E Interior

The Phenom 300E interior has been completely redesigned since the previous Phenom 300. From tables to window shades, from seats to ceiling panels, the interior is all new. Furthermore, Embraer have listened to customer feedback regarding the previous iteration of aircraft. This has allowed them to adapt the cabin to that feedback. Additionally, the low cabin altitude of 6,600 feet and quiet cabin noise level of just 75 dB will ensure that you can comfortable work or relax, so that you arrive at your destination as refreshed as possible.

The new seats feature retractable armrest and thigh supports, along with tracks which allow for the cabin seats to pivot away from the side walls to increase the amount of shoulder room each passenger has, giving passengers even more space. The retractable armrests also create more space within the cabin, with the Phenom 300E featuring a slightly wider aisle than the previous generation 300.

The new cabin has been described as “forward-thinking” and features proximity-activated controls, adjustable lighting, touchscreen monitors and Embraer patented flush gaspers. Combining multiple zones of personalization, an advanced cabin control system that allows portable device integration and wireless audio/video streaming, all adding to the sophisticated interior enhancements.

Nextant 400XTi Interior
Nextant 400XTi Interior

The seating configuration offers a three-seat divan sofa, four club seats and an additional toilet seat. The interior is elegantly designed with individual passenger controls for cabin lighting and temperature. The 400XTi features a unique-in-class flat floor design. The new composite shell cabin interior adds an extra 3 inches at shoulder level and an additional 2.5 inches headroom. If buying from new there are multiple interior layout configurations to choose from.

All interior options have space for a full-service galley, space for dual hot cup containers, dual ice containers, a waste container and space to store drinks.

Cessna Citation CJ3 Plus Interior
Cessna Citation CJ3+ Interior

In the CJ3+ fourteen windows provide a reasonable amount of natural light within the cabin. When flying at night the interior is illuminated by low-power, energy-efficient LED lighting. The cabin is quiet for the light jet class and the cabin altitude goes to a maximum of 8,000 feet. However, while a cabin altitude of 8,000 feet is not impressive compared with many larger aircraft, for a light jet flying short missions this cabin altitude is acceptable. Additionally, the CJ3+ features a belted flushing toilet as standard.

The CJ3+ remains connected to the world below with wireless cabin technology designed especially for the Citation lineup. Optional in-flight WiFi, moving maps, flight information and cockpit audio are all integrated with your own personal device. This allows for “uninterrupted productivity and entertainment”. An optional satcom phone is also available.

Upfront the aircraft features a refreshment center to keep you well fed during the mission. This can be replaced by a side-facing seat to maximize passenger capacity. The four front seats are arranged in a club configuration with access to an executive table. Combine all the factors and you get, as Cessna says, “a peaceful, productive environment”. Cessna also say that the Citation CJ3+ “offers the ultimate cabin for light-jet travel”.

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Charter Price

Price is often the deciding factor for many when flying by private jet. It is also often the factor that most people are curious about in general.

One of the reasons that the CJ3+ is so popular among private jet charter customers is the price. The estimated price per hour to charter a Cessna Citation CJ3+ is $2,750. The 400XTi comes in at $3,000 per flight hour and the Phenom 300E is the most expensive at $3,150 estimated hourly cost.

If you wish to learn more about the hourly cost of private jets then check out this article. Additionally, if you are interested in the factors that affect the price of a private jet charter then have a look at this article.

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Purchase Price

When you consider the base list price for these aircraft the previous specifications start to make a lot more sense. Additionally, this numbers demonstrate the popularity of the Nextant 400XTi and Cessna Citation CJ3+.

The Nextant 400XTi is considerably cheaper with a base list price of just $5.2 million. That’s a lot of aircraft for the money. This is especially true when there are turboprop aircraft costing more (see King Air 260 and King Air 360). While there is a whole case to be made for turboprops over jets and by no means are the King Air aircraft overpriced. But for many private jet customers they want just that, a jet aircraft. There is a certain cachet that is perceived to come with jets over turboprops.

The Cessna Citation CJ3+ has a base list price of $8 million, with the Phenom 300E coming in with a base list price of $9.45 million.

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So, Which is Best?

The decision of which aircraft is best will, as is often the case, come down to finances.

If money were no object. If you want a light jet that has the best all round performance, with the latest modern interior and biggest interior, go with the Embraer Phenom 300E. It can fly the fastest, can carry the most people, has the best short field performance and has the latest interior.

If you are looking to purchase a private jet that is versatile, capable and comfortable, the Nextant 400XTi provides a value that is hard to ignore. $5.2 million and it can put up a fight against an aircraft that costs nearly twice as much. The 400XTi represents the most aircraft per $1 million in this comparison.

And finally, who is the Cessna Citation CJ3+ for? The great thing about these aircraft is their availability. The are lots of them available which means finding on to charter will be easy. Furthermore, they are the cheapest aircraft to charter.


Benedict is a dedicated writer, specializing in in-depth discussions of private aviation ownership and its associated topics.


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