The Cessna Caravan has been in production since 1984, and earlier this year I had my first opportunity to fly the single-engine utility turboprop from Textron Aviation’s private airport—Beech Factory Airport—in Wichita.
My demo pilot was Terry Allenbaugh, the perfect pilot to show me the Caravan’s capabilities. During his early flying career, Allenbaugh flew one of the first Caravans, Serial Number 8, for Mission Aviation Fellowship in Ethiopia. Although he has flown all the Citations and King Airs, Allenbaugh returned to flying the Caravan as a sales demonstration pilot two years ago, and he is an enthusiastic proponent of the big single-engine turboprop.
While it’s common to be told the Caravan “flies just like a heavy 172,” the airplane is not simply a stretched and beefed-up version of any Cessna single. The configuration may be similar—there aren’t many options when it comes to designing a tricycle-gear single-engine turboprop for rough-field operations—but the Caravan employs many features found on larger airplanes.