EBACE Convention News

Textron Aviation Firms Up Plans for New Single-engine Turboprop

 - May 24, 2016, 8:30 AM
Textron’s entry into the pressurized single-engine turboprop arena has a large aft cargo door, as well as a conventional boarding door on the forward left side.

Textron Aviation unveiled the cabin mockup for its single-engine turboprop (SETP) on April 25 in Wichita to visiting journalists, and released some more refined specifications and other details. The company has been showing the mockup to potential customers for months and gathering feedback on the clean-sheet design. More recently it released a drawing highlighting the low-wing, T-tail configuration, which includes a large cargo door on the left aft fuselage.

At last year’s NBAA Convention, Textron had said that the SETP, which has not yet received an official name, would offer speeds in excess of 280 knots (519 kilometers per hour) and a range of at least 1,500 nautical miles (2,778 km). Textron also selected GE Aviation’s new advanced turboprop engine, which also has no name, to power the SETP. In the Textron Aviation application, the engine will deliver 1,240 shp, driving a 105-inch (267-centimeter)-diameter, five-blade, composite, fully feathering and reversible McCauley propeller. Avionics will be Garmin’s touchscreen-controlled G3000 flight deck.

Textron Aviation (Booth V029) will offer the SETP for an introductory price of $4.5 million (in 2016 $), and it is taking orders now. The refined performance figures for the all-metal design include a range of 1,600 nm (2,963 km) and a maximum speed of 285 knots (528 kph). In addition to the cargo door, a forward cabin entry door measuring 24 inches (61 cm) wide by 59 inches (150 cm) tall will provide access on the forward left side of the fuselage. The cargo door measures 59 inches (150 cm) tall by 53 inches (135 cm) wide. “Both of those are larger than any of the existing products in this space today,” said Michael Thacker, senior vice president, engineering. The competing products include Daher’s TBM series and the Pilatus PC-12. The PC-12’s cargo door is 53 inches (135 cm) tall by 52 inches (132 cm) wide.

The SETP measures 48 ft, 9 in (14.9 m) nose-to-tail, with a wingspan of 54 ft, 3 in (16.5 m) and a tail height of 15 ft, 2 in (4.6 m). By comparison, the PC-12NG is 47 ft, 3 in (14.4 m) long, has a wingspan of 53 ft, 4 in (16.3 m) and tail height of 14 ft (4.3 m). The TBM 930, the latest model in the TBM series, has a length of 35 ft, 1 in (10.7 m), wingspan just over 42 ft (12.8 m) and height of 14 ft, 4 in (4.4 m).

Other SETP specifications include a maximum altitude of 31,000 feet (9,449 meters) with a cabin altitude of 6,000 feet (1,829 m) and full-fuel payload of 1,100 pounds (499 kg). First flight is scheduled in 2018, followed by service entry “soon after,” although the timeline for certification was not specified. Certification will be under FAR Part 23, with single-pilot capability.
The cabin features a flat floor with maximum width at 63 inches (160 cm) and height at 58 inches (147 cm). “That’s three inches [wider] than its closest competitor,” said Kriya Shortt, senior v-p of sales and marketing at Textron Aviation. (The PC-12’s cabin, also flat-floored, measures 60 inches (152 cm) in width and 58 inches (147 cm) in height.)

The standard configuration will be a six-passenger executive layout, with a four-seat club area forward and two forward-facing seats in the back. Cabin windows are larger than is typical in this class of airplane. High-density seating will allow up to nine seats in the cabin and two in the cockpit for a total of 11 occupants. An optional enclosable lavatory with a belted seat can be fitted in the aft cabin, and forward of the club seating is a full-height galley/storage cabinet.

The cabin configuration is all about flexibility. Both the storage cabinets and lavatory are easily removable for high-density seating or all-cargo configurations. “Our process continues to solicit voice-of-the-customer feedback from day one,” said Shortt. “And we’ve been doing that with this product for some period of time,” she added. Buyers of other Textron Aviation airplanes were invited to view the cabin mockup when visiting the company’s Wichita headquarters during deliveries and other events.

“What’s unique about this is the seats are fully berthable,” said Christi Tannahill, senior v-p of interior design and engineering. “Designing this airplane, it was important we [incorporated] not only executive-style seating, but also cargo. So you can lean all the way back [except for the aft seat in front of the lavatory bulkhead], you can take those seats out, the lavatory can come out, and you can use all of that for space for hauling.

“The flat floor and the large windows give this a really spacious look and feel, and we have the largest seats in this space. There are USB ports at every seat. One of the other areas we focused on is the service galley, you have access to coffee, and you can configure this however you like. You can hang coats, put luggage or briefcases or have it completely removed and have this space available.” Window shades are manual, as they are on other typically owner-flown Citation jets such as the Mustang and M2.

No further details about the cockpit were available, although Shortt said that Textron will incorporate GE’s single-lever power control for the SETP. “That was another reason that GE was a good fit, because we wanted to be able to incorporate the feel of flying a jet and the simplicity of not having the pilots to do so much work,” she said.

Counting on Smart Customers
The engine’s Fadec and low specific fuel consumption were also factors in the GE selection, according to Shortt. “[Customers] don’t look at only an acquisition, they look at what their operating costs, what their maintainability will be as well. Those are all things that we look at in the design phase prior to manufacturing.”

While the SETP is Textron Aviation’s first cabin-class single-engine turboprop program, both Cessna and Beechcraft explored this concept well before the two companies merged in 2014. At EAA AirVenture 2012, Cessna invited showgoers to climb inside a mockup of a single-engine turboprop and surveyed visitors to measure their expectations for performance. This was a smaller airplane with sidestick flight controls, a cabin slightly larger than a Piper Meridian or TBM and maximum speed of 260 knots (482 kph) priced between $2.1 to $2.5 million. Wingspan would have measured 42 feet (12.8 m), baggage compartment 26 cubic feet (.74 cubic m) and cabin 54 inches (137 cm) wide, 53 inches (135 cm) tall and 17 feet, eight inches (5.4 m) long.

Beechcraft proposed its own single-engine turboprop concept a few months later, and this would have used the composite fuselage of the Premier IA twinjet. Hawker Beechcraft showed a rendering of airplane seating one pilot and eight to 11 passengers in a cabin 66 inches (168 cm) wide, nearly 65 inches (165 cm) high and 20.4 feet (6.2 meters) long. NBAA IFR range with four passengers was projected at 1,750 nm (3,241 km) and high-speed cruise 302 knots (559 kph) at FL250. Maximum payload would be 2,800 pounds (1,270 kg) and a full-fuel payload 1,650 pounds (748 kg).

These projects didn’t necessarily guide the SETP’s ultimate shape, but may have had some impact. “The advanced design process is an iterative process,” explained Thacker, “and you try to put together the pieces of technology and capability that you have in-house to come to a product that makes sense. And so all of the pieces that were looked at, all of the concepts that were derived earlier have fed into where we have ended up with this product. We’re taking the best of both legacies and bringing it together and moving it forward to the next generation of aircraft.”

Textron Aviation’s ongoing interest in the SETP stems in part from what is happening in the new-airplane market. “In the past five years when you look at deliveries,” said Shortt, “it’s about a 12.5 percent increase [in this category per year] in what has been a challenging market. It’s good growth and certainly indicative of a space that customers want and need product.”
The target market for the SETP is owner-pilots and professionally flown transportation along with special-missions applications. “The demand will be across the world,” she added. “The capabilities that the aircraft will offer will allow it to play very well in the international segments, [and] with the pending [single-engine IFR] changes with EASA we see good growth opportunities with the product in Europe as well.

She said, “Certainly the Caravan is great from a utility perspective, [but] I think that this is going to–we hope–grow our share in what is a strong and resilient market with little competition.”
Textron Aviation will unveil the cabin mockup and the official name of the SETP at this year’s EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in late July.