Textron’s New Utility Twin
On 28 November, Textron Aviation announced Cessna’s clean-sheet twin-engine utility turboprop – the Cessna SkyCourier 408. Launch customer FedEx will take delivery of up to 100 aircraft.
The Cessna SkyCourier 408 will be offered in cargo and passenger variants. Powered by a pair of 1,100 shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65SC engines, the SkyCourier has a maximum payload of 6,000 lbs for cargo operations, and will feature a large cargo door and a flat floor cabin able to handle up to three LD3 shipping containers.
The passenger variant will be able to carry 19 passengers, with maximum payload for the passenger version being set at 5,000 lbs. It will have dual crew doors up front and a single passenger door at the rear of the cabin.
Both configurations will offer single-point pressure refuelling to enable faster turnarounds. Maximum cruise speed will be up to 200 KTAS, with a 900 nautical-mile maximum range. Avionics will be the Garmin G1000 NXi platform.
FedEx Express has signed on as the launch customer for up to 100 aircraft, with an initial fleet order of 50 cargo aircraft and options for 50 more. The deal is worth US$550 million, based on a list price for the SkyCourier of US$5.5 million.
Cessna says the SkyCourier builds on its proven success in the utility category, thanks to over 30 years of operating and developing the Cessna Caravan. The larger SkyCourier offers greater capability and mission flexibility, making it the perfect feeder solution for FedEx Express, a long-time operator of Cessna Caravans, according to Textron.
With its high-wing, twin-engine utility design, the unpressurised SkyCourier looks similar to the Twin Otter turboprop, which is still being produced by Viking Air of British Columbia. However, the SkyCourier will be slightly larger than the rugged bush-plane Twin Otter, and offer improved cruise performance.
Entry into service for the Cessna SkyCourier is planned for 2020. Interestingly, despite the new Cessna Denali singe engine turboprop using GE’s Advance Turboprop engines, Textron Aviation opted not to use this engine for the SkyCourier due to the short development timeline, which was driven by the operational needs of FedEx.