Textron Aviation, the company that controls planemaker Cessna, has announced an important step in the development of its new SkyCourier twin-engine turboprop. The first prototype of the aircraft joined the wings to the fuselage this week, one of the most complex stages of the project. Now, the manufacturer says it will begin a new phase of the program that includes tests with the landing gear and avionics as well as the installation of the T-tail and moving parts, among others. Cessna SkyCourier’s maiden flight is scheduled for 2020.
“As expected, the operation was sound, the wings were secured on the fuselage, and the new Cessna SkyCourier took another major step in its development,” said Chris Hearne, senior vice president, Programs and Engineering. “The Cessna SkyCourier’s rugged, high -wing design will give the aircraft excellent operational and performance characteristics for its diverse mission profile. ”
SkyCourier follows the well-established configuration of the Caravan single engine, but with two turboprop engines installed on the wings. Like the single engine, the new Cessna has high wings, a fixed landing gear, good internal space and the extremely reliable PT-6 engine. Launched in late 2017, it received a 100-unit order from Fedex airline – 50 firm and 50 options.
The SkyCourier has a fairly wide rectangular section fuselage that can accommodate a row of three seats in the passenger version (up to 19 seats) or three LD3 standard containers in the cargo version. Without pressurization and flying at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters) altitude, the twin-engine has a cruising speed of 200 ktas (370 km / h) and a maximum range of 900 nm (1,667 km).
On the other hand, the new Cessna will be able to operate on runways up to 1,000 meters in length and will certainly have a low operating cost with such simplicity and the expected robustness of a model with these characteristics.
Currently, the new Cessna plane has no direct competitors, but this situation should change and due to two projects in Brazil. One of them is Desaer ATL-100, a startup founded by former Embraer employees.
Like the SkyCourier, the ATL-100 has high wings, a T-tail and is powered by the same PT-6 as well as carrying 19 passengers or 2,500 kg of cargo. One differential, however, is in the rear cargo door while the Cessna uses a side door in the cargo version.
The Brazilian plane, however, is behind in the volume of orders. To date, only one Brazilian logistics company has signed a contract to acquire two units and three options. And if the SkyCourier will fly next year, the ATL-100 will only have a prototype ready by 2021, with service expected in 2023.
This week, another possible competitor emerged through the announcement of the Memorandum of Understanding between Embraer and the Brazilian Air Force to develop a new light military transport aircraft, but which should have similar characteristics to those of SkyCourier. The project, however, is still unclear and could eventually lead to a larger hybrid-electric powered aircraft.