Textron Aviation (Booth C9343, Static SD503 and SD503A) is making progress on the development of its new high-wing, twin-turboprop Cessna SkyCourier 408 but now expects the utility airplane to make its first flight in early 2020, officials of the Wichita airframer announced Monday on the eve of NBAA-BACE. The program, unveiled in 2017, has progressed considerably over the course of the last few months with the development of the prototype and an additional five flight and ground test articles, they said. Wingmate of the prototype is rapidly approaching, they added.
FedEx is the launch customer for the SkyCourier, with 50 firm orders for the airplane and options for 50 more. Configurable for both cargo and commuter operations, it is designed to carry a payload of up to 6,000 pounds with an 87-inch cargo door, a flat floor, and a nearly 70-inch tall and wide cabin to accept three standard LD3 air cargo containers. In a passenger configuration, it will have seating for up to 19 passengers, with a netted rear cabin area for luggage and equipment. Capable of flying 200 ktas, the aircraft is powered by two, 1,100-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65SC turboprop engines and two, new 110-inch McCauley propellers.
Rob Scholl, Textron’s senior v-p of sales and marketing, told AIN even with a cargo operator as its launch customer, he thinks there’s a “real possibility” that small commuter airlines will have a strong interest in the airplane that has a 5,000-pound maximum passenger payload and 900-nm range. “I think the place that's getting the most attention, at least here in the U.S., is Essential Air Service,” he explained. “And so we’re already having discussions with the Department of Transportation on that because we want this obviously to have a role in the Essential Air Service program, but also internationally, especially the Asia-Pacific region, where you’re doing a lot of island hopping.”
Scholl added there’s customer interest in the SkyCourier as a combination passenger/cargo aircraft. “That’s getting a lot of attention as well,” he said.
Like its new Denali single-engine turboprop, the SkyCourier will be certified as a Part 23 airplane. Given the different certification paths as well as lessons learned from the prolonged type certification of the Part 25 Citation Longitude, Textron Aviation CEO Ron Draper told AIN he expects it to be a smoother process for the SkyCourier. “I’m pretty sure it won’t be as extensive as the Part 25 airplane, and we’ll be smarter from it,” Draper said.