With Catalyst Progress, Textron Plans Cessna Denali First Flight

 - February 12, 2021, 11:00 AM
GE Aviation's European flight-test engineering team with the Catalyst flying testbed. (Photo: GE Aviation)

Textron Aviation expects the first flight of its Cessna Denali turboprop single later this year now that GE Aviation has announced another milestone in its Catalyst engine development program. GE said its European flight-test engineering team has now fired up a Catalyst engine hung on a Beechcraft King Air 350 flying testbed in preparation for ground testing. The clean-sheet Catalyst will power the Denali.

“The engine started flawlessly on the first attempt,” said Catalyst product line leader David Kimball. “It reached ground idle in a stable and predictable manner without any intervention, and the fully integrated engine and prop control system worked seamlessly. This not only demonstrates progress within the program but also showcases the versatility of this engine; the Catalyst can be installed in a wide spectrum of aircraft applications with vastly different technical architectures.”

Next in the ground-test campaign is taxiing the testbed with the Catalyst, which will include running various power-management scenarios. That will help to determine the engine’s performance, operability, and responsiveness to Catalyst’s full authority digital engine and propeller controls-enabled pilot inputs, explained GE Aviation staff test engineer Jiri Pecinka.

A Textron Aviation spokeswoman confirmed to AIN this week that it had recently received a flightworthy Catalyst engine and was looking forward to first flight of the Denali, which originally was expected in 2019. “We anticipate the Denali making its official debut in 2021 as the development program ramps up, and we look forward to seeing another innovative creation—designed and built by our talented workforce—gracing the Kansas skies when the Denali takes flight in the second half of the year,” the spokeswoman said. With delays in the Catalyst program, Textron Aviation officials had previously declined to specify a timeline for the first flight of the Denali.