Next September will mark the 50th anniversary of FAA type certification for the Cessna Model 500—the first of its Citation variants that fundamentally changed the company from primarily a general aviation manufacturer to a business aviation one. Also on tap in 2021 are the expected certification and first delivery of the high-wing Cessna SkyCourier 408 turboprop. The Wichita, Kansas, airframer expects to mark those two milestones in the second half of the year.
FedEx Express is the launch customer for the SkyCourier, which was announced in November 2017, and is slated to take delivery of 50 of the airplanes in a cargo configuration with an option for 50 more. The airplane will replace FedEx’s aging fleet of Caravans and ATRs. Textron Aviation officials previously told AIN that the airplane—which is also available in a configuration for 19 passengers—has attracted strong interest among regional airlines in the Asia-Pacific region as well.
What’s not clear at this point is whether another Cessna airplane under development, the Denali, will see its first flight in 2021 because company officials declined to put a timeline on the turboprop single’s milestones. Powered by the clean-sheet GE Aviation Catalyst engine, the Denali was originally expected to have its first flight in 2019 but that has not occurred because of delays in the engine program. However, GE began ground testing of the Catalyst on a Beechcraft King Air flying testbed in December and delivered the safety-of-flight engine to Textron Aviation, which put the airplane closer to the start of its flight-test program.