Wither the new turboprop market, or the pause that refreshes? Historically, new business turboprop sales remain relatively steady while jet sales gyrate up or down. So far, this year is a little different. While new business jet deliveries have climbed more than 12 percent for the first six months of 2019, turboprop deliveries dropped 11.2 percent for 1H 2019 compared to the year-ago period, according to data from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). It is notable that a big chunk of jet sale gains were models that challenge traditional turboprop territory, such as the new Cirrus SF50 single-engine jet or the revised HondaJet Elite light twin.
Amid the decline in turboprop deliveries, certain turboprop models are faring even worse. Piper delivered just 14 turboprop singles in this year's first half compared with 23 in the year-ago period, while Textron Aviation pushed almost 50 percent fewer King Air 350s—it’s top turboprop model—out the door compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, the used turboprop market is essentially flat from the year-ago period, with just a three-aircraft gain to available inventory and days on market inching up by two, to a little more than 10 months. Residual values for popular models, such as the Pilatus PC-12, remain strong.
Long-term, the market’s confidence in turboprops appears unshaken. Textron Aviation is proceeding apace with development of two new models, the Denali single and the SkyCourier twin. Epic Aircraft plans to bring its long-awaited E1000 certified single to market by year-end. Daher, maker of the TBM series of turboprop singles, purchased fellow turboprop airframer Quest over the summer. And one of the largest twin-turboprop fleet operators, membership service provider Wheels Up, attracted $128 million in new investor financing in August, pushing that company’s valuation to more than $1.1 billion.
There also is no shortage of takers for turboprop modification and upgrade programs—from engines and propellers to avionics. Blackhawk Modifications, a provider of turboprop engine upgrades, announced a major facilities expansion earlier this year as well as FAA STC approval for its $1.8 million King Air 300 re-engine program. And there are plenty of avionics upgrade programs for legacy turboprops. Earlier this year, Stevens Aviation completed the first installation of a BendixKing AeroVue integrated flight deck on one of the most ubiquitous King Air models—the B200. Numerous other avionics upgrades from manufacturers including Garmin, Collins, and Honeywell are available for a wide variety of turboprop models.
Development of new engine and flight-control technology for turboprops also appears unfazed. GE Aviation continues development of its new high-efficiency Catalyst turboprop engine, while single-lever power control, first offered as an aftermarket option, is slowly moving to become the new cockpit standard in the category, now offered in the Nextant G90XT King Air remanufacture, on new Daher TBM940 singles, and in development for several other new-production models.
These new technologies will add efficiencies, ease of operation, and increase safety margins in aircraft and undoubtedly increase their market appeal.
Textron Aviation Cessna 408 SkyCourier
Price: $5.5 million
Range: 900 nm
Textron Aviation’s new unpressurized Cessna turboprop twin can be configured for up to 19 passengers or all-cargo operations. The aircraft was unveiled in late 2017, and Textron has visions of the high wing, all-aluminum aircraft becoming its highest volume twin turboprop. FedEx has already inked a 100-aircraft commitment (orders and options).
The SkyCourier features a pair of 1,100-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65SC engines, Garmin G1000 avionics, fixed landing gear, and an 87-inch cargo door that can swallow LD3 shipping containers. Textron unveiled a full-size passenger cabin mockup of the aircraft last year. The no-frills cabin is almost a perfect 70-inch square with a rubberized floor, small overhead bins, and a netted rear cabin area for passenger luggage. The aircraft can climb to 25,000 feet with supplemental pilot/passenger oxygen and has a relatively slow top speed of 200 knots.
A prototype aircraft could fly later this year and Textron expects FAA certification in 2020.
Price: $10 million (estimated)
Range: 1,200 nm (8 passengers)
The seemingly unending saga of this Indian aircraft’s tortured development continues. The latest iteration of the NAL Saras twin-engine turboprop pusher took to the skies for the first time on Jan. 24, 2018. In the ensuing year it flew 10 hours, including at this year’s Aero India show.
PT1N aka “Saras Mk 2” features a larger rudder, redesigned engine nacelle, new flight controls and brakes, composite components to cut weight, uprated engines, and more modern avionics. Given the upgraded systems and assumed improved performance, NAL now projects a demand for the aircraft, now nearing its fourth decade of development, for between 120 and 160 over the next 10 years and anticipates having the aircraft ready to enter serial production by 2022. However, so far, the only customer to materialize is the Indian air force which has committed to taking 15.
The program has been refinanced with another $60 million but has been subject to fits and starts since the second prototype had a fatal crash in 2009.
PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) N219
Price: $6 million
Range: 480 nm (19 passengers)
A 19-seat twin-engine STOL turboprop developed from the CASA 212, the aircraft first flew in 2017. Two prototypes are currently in flight test. The N219 has a cruise speed of 190 knots, a stall speed of 59 knots, and features a large rear cargo door for multi-mission operations. It uses the Garmin G1000 glass panel avionics system and is powered by two 850-shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-42 engines driving Hartzell four-blade propellers.
Through August, PTDI claimed 257 orders for the aircraft—more than 150 from export customers—and said that assembly of the first four production aircraft was underway. The company hopes for Indonesian certification in 2020 and for customer deliveries to begin in 2021. PTDI said it intends to ramp production up to 36 aircraft per year and is exploring an amphibious variant. It is in the process of raising more than $100 million to fund a full-production facility.
Dornier Seawings SeaStar CD2
Price: $7.21 million
Range: 900 nm
The German-Chinese joint venture developing the aircraft announced last year that it had raised an additional $166 million to finance the rebirth of this all-composite, push-pull, twin-engine amphibian. The funds will be used to complete the revised Seastar’s certification and build a second production line in China. Seawings also unveiled a parapublic variant of the aircraft called the “Orca” designed for maritime patrol, search and rescue, and medevac missions. Seawings said the first Orca will be ready for customers in 2022.
The first new-generation civil variant of the Seastar was rolled out in August 2017. It features an all-digital cockpit with Honeywell Primus Epic 2.0 avionics suite and four 10-inch LCD displays with advanced vision, communication, navigation, surveillance, and air traffic management systems. The aircraft is certified for single-pilot IFR. Other new items include a stern hydro thruster for improved water maneuvering, new corrosion-resistant landing gear with nosewheel steering, a revised 12 passenger cabin layout with air conditioning, and new propellers. First flight is scheduled for this year.
The Seastar made its first flight in 1984 and was initially certified in 1991; however, the effort to put the aircraft into serial production subsequently failed due to chronic undercapitalization. In 2014, Dornier partnered with two state-owned Chinese companies (Wuxi Industrial Development Group and the Wuxi Communications Industry Group Co., Ltd.) to bring the aircraft to market, announcing plans to assemble the amphibian in Germany and China. Last year Dornier Seawings China began construction of a purpose-built aircraft assembly plant in Yixing. In 2017, Dornier Seawings announced an agreement with Canada’s Diamond Aircraft Industries to have that company build Seastar airframes under contract.
The Seastar is powered by two in-line Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-135 engines, has a maximum cruise speed of 180 knots, a 900-nm range, a service ceiling of 15,000 feet, and a maximum demonstrated sea state of two feet. The Seastar was designed in the 1980s and was FAA certified under Part 23 in the early 1990s at a cost of almost $150 million. A decade ago, the company said it held letters of intent (LOI) for more than 25 Seastars.
Range: 1,100 nm (estimated)
In 2015 Sierra Nevada Corporation acquired 328 Support Services Group (SSG) and the type certificates to the Dornier 328. Since then, the company has been exploring ways to put the 30-seat commuter and executive twin turboprop back into production. A plan to do so in partnership with the Turkish government collapsed in 2017.
In August 2019, 328 Support Services announced the formation of Germany-based DRA to manufacture an updated variant of the aircraft dubbed “328NEU” at Leipzig with $89 million in funding from Sierra Nevada and $7.2 million from the German state of Saxony.
“Germany’s return to the design and building of a Part 25-category commercial aircraft is long overdue, and this new operation intends to create an aviation legacy founded on the heritage of an aircraft pioneer,” said Dave Jackson, managing director of 328 SSG and DRA. The company said additional program announcements would be forthcoming next year, and that it plans to start customer deliveries in 2023.
The Dornier 328 was produced between 1991 and 2000 and sold 217 copies. It was powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PW119B turboprop engines (2,180-hp each) and had a fully loaded range of 1,000 nm, a top cruise speed of 335 knots, and a service ceiling of 31,000 feet. It found favor with commuter airlines before being converted to charter and freight operations.
Range: 864 nm
Brazil’s Desaer (Desenvolvimento Aeronáutica) is working on developing a 19-seat (utility configuration) twin turboprop suitable for operations from unimproved runways. The ATL-100 will feature two 1,000-shp class engines and a reconfigurable cabin suitable for military, commuter, cargo, or executive layouts. Specifications released to date include an mtow of 19,000 pounds, a maximum cruising speed of 232 knots, and a range of 864 nm.
Evektor EV-55 Outback
Price: $4 million
Range: 800 nm
The program was shelved in 2017 due to lack of funding and, for now, remains there. The first conforming prototype flew in April 2016. At one point, Evektor said it had orders for two dozen of the military/utility/cargo/combi/passenger aircraft, which seats between nine and 14 people.
The Outback features a quick-change cabin that can be reconfigured in 20 minutes. Power comes from a pair of P&WC PT6A-21s rated at 536 shp each. Maximum speed at 10,000 feet is 220 knots and maximum payload is 4,021 pounds. Service ceiling is 29,000 feet. The volume of the combined cargo/passenger area is 447 cu ft and the maximum cargo payload is 3,021 pounds. Evektor claims the Outback can take off from, and land on, runways of less than 1,700 feet at 6,500 feet msl.
Evektor had selected Esterline’s CMC SmartDeck integrated digital avionics system as standard equipment.
Turbine Mallard G-73T
Price: $4 million
Passengers: 8-9 (executive)
Type certificate holder Frakes Aviation has formed Mallard Aircraft in Cleburne, Texas, with the goal of building new-production aircraft with new Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engines and Rockwell Collins avionics. Fred Frakes converted eight piston-powered Grumman Mallards to PT6 power between 1970 and 1984 and later purchased the Mallard’s TC. Mallard plans to offer several interior configurations, among them an executive floorplan with six single seats and a three-place divan, eight single seats in a utility configuration, and a 17-seat high-density layout.
Predicted numbers for the new Mallard: maximum takeoff weight (land or water) 14,000 pounds, up to 4,462 pounds of fuel, a useful load of 5,470 pounds, maximum payload of 2,350 pounds, typical cruise speed of 190 knots and a service ceiling of 24,500 feet.
Mahindra Airvan 18
Mahindra Aerospace has delayed plans to begin working on an updated version of the Government Aircraft Factories N24 Nomad twin, rebadged the Airvan 18. Mahindra is presently focused on bringing its recently certified Airvan 10 turboprop single to market. Plans for the Airvan 18 had included a modern glass cockpit and an 18-passenger layout with quick-change options for passenger, cargo, and combi ops.
The Airvan 18 was slated to be powered by a pair of upgraded 450-shp Rolls-Royce 250-series engines and new propellers that would allow it to retain its STOL capabilities, easily using runways shorter than 2,000 feet. Performance estimates include a maximum cruise speed of 173 knots and a range of 1,080 nm with 2,190 pounds of payload. Maximum useful load was projected at 4,405 pounds with an mtow of 9,400 pounds.
Price: $3.25 million
Range: 1,650 nm (full fuel with 1,100 pounds payload)
Epic Aircraft expects to begin customer deliveries of its $3.25 million E1000 turboprop single by year-end. The first of 87 customer aircraft on order is already on the assembly line at the company’s 300,000-sq-ft factory in Bend, Oregon. Initial production will be one aircraft per month, with the goal to eventually accelerate to one aircraft per week.
The all-composite, six-seat aircraft has a top speed of 333 knots and a maximum range of 1,650 nm. Power comes from a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-67A engine (derated to 1,200 shp) and production aircraft will feature the three-screen Garmin G1000 NXi glass-panel avionics.
The sculpted cockpit and the cabin both take the latest automotive styling cues and offer all the modern conveniences, including USB ports for carry-on electronics. Entry is via a rear airstair door, up a center aisle through the facing club-four passenger seat array. The 15-foot-long cabin offers more space than a twin-engine King Air C90. The E1000 is expected to deliver fuel burns of 60 gallons per hour at cruise speeds of 300 knots down low, and 40 gallons per hour at 300 knots up at 34,000 feet. Time to climb to maximum altitude is just 15 minutes. The E1000 is projected to need just 1,600 feet of runway for takeoff.
Textron Aviation Cessna Denali
Price: $4.8 million
Range: 1,600 nm (4 passengers)
Textron Aviation’s Cessna Denali is a new-design, pressurized, single-engine turboprop that is single-pilot capable and can seat 6-10 passengers. The Denali’s flat-floor cabin is 16 feet, 9 inches long—the same as the cabin in Cessna’s durably selling but unpressurized and slower Grand Caravan EX turboprop utility single; the other cabin dimensions are nearly identical, too: 58 inches high and 63 inches wide for the Denali and 54 inches high and 64 inches wide for the Grand Caravan. Textron expects the Denali to have a range of 1,600 nm with four passengers, a maximum cruise speed of 285 knots, and a full-fuel payload of 1,100 pounds.
The aircraft features a 53-by-59-inch rear cargo door (slightly larger than the one on the Pilatus PC-12) and a digital pressurization system that maintains a 6,130-foot cabin to 31,000 feet. Options include an externally serviceable belted lavatory with pocket door enclosure in the aft of the cabin. The aircraft is powered by the new GE Catalyst engine with full authority digital engine control (Fadec) and features Garmin G3000 avionics. GE estimates that the engine could be 15 to 20 percent more efficient than comparable models. And its manufacture employs 3D printing, which cuts its weight, improves reliability, and reduces production costs. The initial engine time-between-overhaul interval will be 4,000 hours. The aircraft likely will be ready for deliveries in 2021.
Daher TBM 940
Price: $4.13 million
Range: 1,730 nm
Earlier this year, Daher unveiled the TBM 940, an upgraded version of its Model 930 single-engine turboprop. New features include integrated Garmin autothrottle with single-lever power control, automatic deicing, and cabin improvements including redesigned passenger seats, more cabin insulation, a new storage shelf, and one additional 115-volt electric cabin and USB port. The 940 also features a temperature controller in the cabin and heated passenger seats.
Privateer Industries Privateer
Price: $1.5 million
Range, 1,000 nm
The aircraft made its first flight on Aug. 6, 2018. In the first two months of test flying it accumulated more than 40 hours in the air. The test program suffered a setback in March 2019 during a crosswind hard landing that collapsed the starboard main landing gear.
The prototype for this futuristic-looking, single-engine, carbon-fiber seven-seat amphibian has a 714-shp Walter 601 spinning a ducted, pusher MT propeller.
Predicted performance numbers: 215-knot cruise speed, service ceiling of 25,000 feet, range of 1,000 nm fully loaded, water takeoff run of 1,300 feet over a 50-foot obstacle, and useful load of 2,000 pounds. Plans call for the airplane to be marketed as a kit first and then as a certified aircraft.
Starting price is estimated in the $1.5 million range. Privateer claims to have received order interest from prospective customers in Canada, Brazil, Great Britain, France, Indonesia, China, Chile, and the Dominican Republic. Privateer is looking for a joint-venture manufacturing partner capable of producing 2,000 aircraft.
One Aviation Kestrel K-350
Price: $3 million
Range: 1,300 nm
This year's bankruptcy proceedings at One Aviation have cast significant and perhaps fatal shade on its Kestrel K-350 turboprop single project. One Aviation did go so far as to announce major suppliers for the Kestrel in 2016 including Garmin for its G3000 touchscreen avionics system and Honeywell for the TPE331-14GR engine, flat-rated to 1,000 shp and providing a 5,000-hour TBO.
The aircraft has a four- to five-seat executive interior on par with those of modern corporate jets, including high-gloss wood veneers, fine leathers, a wide aisle, and oversize oval cabin windows. It is just one of nine interiors Kestrel is developing, with passenger seating from five to nine people. The others will accommodate missions as diverse as medevac, cargo, and a high-density configuration for eight passengers.
The flight deck features sidestick controls, a low, contoured instrument panel with large flat-panel displays, and a wrap-around windshield.
Preliminary specifications: maximum cruise speed of at least 320 ktas; 1,300-nm range (pilot, five passengers, maximum cruise speed at 31,000 feet and NBAA IFR reserves with 100-nm alternate); 1,200 pounds of payload with full fuel (319 U.S. gallons usable); and 8,500 pounds mtow.
Kestrel has not released a price for the aircraft, but it is expected to be in the neighborhood of $3 million.