Yingling Aviation shop launches Caravan cabin

 - July 29, 2008, 7:08 AM

Cessna’s workhorse turboprop single Caravan has appeared in just about as many guises as the X-Men, and with some of the same versatility. It hauls cargo, performs as an emergency medical vehicle, transports up to 13 passengers in a scheduled carrier role, takes fishermen into the Alaskan wilderness on floats and “dresses up” to carry nine company executives nearly 1,000 miles. It is the last role that is gaining favor, and Yingling Aviation in Wichita is enthusiastically promoting the airplane in that role.

The company recently received an STC for a new executive interior that Yingling president Lynn Nichols believes Caravan owners will line up to buy.

Cessna, manufacturer of the $1.66 million aircraft, does not do executive interiors for the Caravan, but that choice is available to customers through one of three approved completion centers–South- star Aircraft Interiors in Uvalde, Texas; Wipaire in Inver Grove Heights, Minn.; and Yingling. A spokeswoman at Cessna said even though the Caravan has been produced since 1984, interest in executive interiors for the airplane began to grow only in the past two or three years. By Cessna estimates, some 30 to 40 executive interiors have been installed in Caravans by various completion and refurb centers.

Nichols said Yingling was prompted to seek a Caravan interior STC when he and others at the company noticed a growing demand by Caravan buyers for executive interiors. “We did a market survey that confirmed it. Then we generated a new executive interior, and decided to take it a little further and apply for an STC approval.”

The project took off in partnership with Millennium Concepts and Global Engineering and Technology, both Wichita-based companies with experience in business aircraft interiors. Millennium does the drawings and takes care of parts manufacturing approvals and STC certification. Global builds the seats and cabinetry. The installation and the marketing are done by Yingling, as are additional airframe accessories and avionics upgrades.

First Yingling Interior Goes To Bangkok

The first aircraft with the new interior, a Grand Caravan 208B, was delivered to Supap Puranitee of Bangkok in late April. The airplane rolled out in April with the exterior painted a jaunty blue with gold stripes. Inside, the color theme is light tan tones, accented by wood veneer trim, giving the impression of considerable space. The cabin, about 16.5 feet long and 4.25 feet wide, is configured to carry eight passengers; six of them in full-swivel, full-berthing seats equipped with stowable armrests and under-seat storage.

The eight-passenger configuration in Puranitee’s aircraft is one Nichols expects will be the most popular. In the aft cabin are four seats, two executive seats facing rearward and two bench-type seats facing forward. In the forward cabin, all four executive seats face the front. The two aft seats do not recline, and an electrically flushed toilet is concealed under the aft right seat.

A floor-to-ceiling privacy curtain may be drawn to divide the aft bulkhead seats from the rest of the cabin. Window curtains were designed to block out light.

The DVD/VHS entertainment system includes three seven-inch monitor screens from Sirius. There are also electrical outlets and eight intercom outlets. Behind the cockpit bulkhead is a mini-galley and two baggage storage areas.

“We could add some soundproofing, but I’m not sure the reduction in cabin noise would be worth the cost, and Cessna does a very good job with its standard thermal/ acoustic package,” said Nichols.

The weight of the new interior in an eight-passenger configuration is about 595 pounds, which Nichols said is about 250 to 300 pounds more than the interior in a typical factory-equipped aircraft. Range and cruise speed remain about 900 nm and 184 knots, respectively.

If the customer orders the Yingling interior at the same time the order is placed with Cessna, the interior will be ready when the aircraft rolls off the assembly line and can be installed in just four days.

The cabin is available as a retrofit item on all Caravans, but as a refurb the interior may take 45 to 60 days to build and install. “We can configure it for any Caravan with the same STC,” said Nichols.

The cost of the interior ranges from $131,000 to about $145,000, depending on the seating configuration and the level of customization required. For installation of the interior as part of a refurbishment, Yingling will inspect the aircraft and then provide a quote.

“We’ve had a lot of excited customers call about the interior–more than expected,” said Nichols. And he added, “We already have two more in the shop, we’re negotiating for another four and we anticipate producing at least 10 interiors next year.”