Hawker 800XP's Achilles' heel, though, was its lackluster runway performance, especially when departing hot-and-high airports. It also had no external baggage compartment, so most luggage had to be toted up the air stair and stored in a closet in the vestibule.
Russ Meyer, then Cessna's chairman and CEO, saw an opportunity to best the Hawker in several areas. His engineering department fit the Sovereign with a huge, but modestly swept, mildly super-critical wing, along with under-stressed Pratt & Whitney Canada PW206C engines and classically simple Citation systems. The result was an aircraft offering more cabin volume, considerably better runway performance and 300 more nm range than the Hawker 800XP. It was equipped with a 100 cu. ft. aft, external baggage compartment offering twice the volume of the Hawker's vestibule closet. Sovereign also could accommodate another 35 cu. ft. of luggage inside the cabin. Meyer priced the Sovereign at $13.4 million.
“Versatility is this aircraft's strong suit,” Meyer told BCA in 2003. “Sovereign has respectable speed, Mach 0.74 to 0.75 at high altitude. It has transcontinental (U.S.) range and it can routinely operate out of 4,000- to 4,500-ft. strips.”
More than two-thirds of the fleet is U.S. registered, according to Amstat data. NetJets is the largest fleet operator with 44 aircraft in fractional ownership service or under management for third-party owners. CitationAir, Cessna's jet card and air charter subsidiary, remains the second largest operator with seven aircraft.
LJ Aviation in Latrobe, Pa., manages and/or charters four aircraft. Corporate fleet operators include Parker-Hannifin with three Sovereigns that replaced the firm's fleet of Learjet 45s, Henry Crown & Co. with four aircraft and Schweitzer Engineering and Performance Contractors, each with three aircraft. Northrop Grumman and Hubbard Broadcasting have mixed fleets that include Sovereigns.
Two each are operated by Principal Financial Group, Green Bay Packaging and Helix Electric, plus J. M. Smucker, Darden Restaurants and Regions Financial. Single corporate aircraft operators include Bass Pro, Belden, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of South Carolina and Silver Oak Cellars, along with Entergy, Whelen Engineering and Owens Corning. Notably, the Sovereign has found a home with several large American automobile dealers.
Outside the U.S., there are a dozen Sovereigns registered in Canada, operated by firms such as Canada Pacific Railway, Execaire, Cenovus Energy and Redhead Equipment. Eight are registered in Mexico, mostly flown by air charter operators.
Brazil is home to 20 aircraft, mainly based in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. They're operated by firms such as financial services companies, air taxi service providers and agricultural producers. The next largest block is in Germany with nine used for air charter and corporate transportation. Six are registered in the Isle of Man, mainly by operators based in U.K. Four are registered in U.K., but three of them were for sale.
Czech charter operator Travel Service has three Sovereigns based in Prague, Cartier Europe flies two that are registered in the Netherlands and three more are registered in Austria.