The Cessna Citation III was the first of the Model 650 series of Citation jets, which are mid-sized, high-performance business jets. The Citation III led to the later development of the Citation VI and Citation VII. The 650 series was the second of six distinct "families" of jets marketed by Cessna Aircraft Company under its Cessna Citation brand.
While the Citation I and II were successful from a sales perspective, their nearest competitors were twin-engine turboprop aircraft. Cessna decided it needed a high performance, mid-sized jet to compete with the growing market of fast corporate jets. To develop such an aircraft, Cessna started from scratch for its design, rather than building on the existing Citation line. Development of the Citation III began in 1978 and the first prototype made its maiden flight May 30, 1979, with the second prototype flying on May 2, 1980. After a typical development flight test program, the aircraft received its Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) type certification on April 30, 1982.
The aircraft is flown by a crew of two, and with a typical corporate interior will seat six passengers, although in a high-density configuration, it can seat up to 13 It is powered by a pair of Garrett TFE731-3B turbofan engines.
In 1983, just after the first aircraft were delivered to customers, the Citation III set several class records, including two time-to-climb records and an overall speed record of 5 hours, 13 minutes for a flight from Gander, Newfoundland to Paris' Le Bourget Airport. Production continued for nine years until 1992, with a total of 202 Citation IIIs being built.