Textron Aviation announced the rollout of the first production unit of the twin-engine, large-utility turboprop, the Cessna SkyCourier, at the company’s manufacturing facility in Wichita. The new, clean-sheet design has allowed for the incorporation of the latest state-of-the-art assembly and fabrication processes and techniques into the manufacturing of the aircraft.
“Today is a rewarding day for our employees who have worked to design and build what I believe will become a legendary aircraft for our company,” said Ron Draper, president and CEO, Textron Aviation. “The SkyCourier brings an impressive combination of cabin flexibility, payload capability, performance and low operating costs to the twin-engine utility segment. We look forward to this highly versatile aircraft entering the market very soon.”
From the SkyCourier’s inception, launch customer FedEx Express and other members of Textron Aviation’s Customer Advisory Board were instrumental in shaping the aircraft’s design, from manufacturing methods and materials to product features and serviceability. Textron Aviation’s highly skilled employees incorporated this feedback and found opportunities to maximize quality and precision while meeting and exceeding customer expectations.
Production of the SkyCourier incorporates many of the latest advancements in aircraft manufacturing, including the use of monolithic machining throughout the airframe. With this technique, major assemblies are milled from a single piece of metal rather than assembled from smaller pieces, reducing the overall number of parts and resulting in more precise tolerances for easier assembly.
Designed with serviceability at the forefront, the SkyCourier features quick access points throughout the aircraft for inspection and repairs. The team also developed innovative patent-pending quick-release seats and overhead bins that can be installed quickly by a single operator.
The SkyCourier celebrated its inaugural flight in May 2020, and the flight test program’s three aircraft have accumulated more than 2,100 hours. Following certification, which is anticipated in the first half of 2022, this first production unit will be delivered to the launch customer, FedEx Express, which has agreed to purchase up to 100 aircraft, with an initial fleet order of 50 cargo aircraft and options for 50 more.
The Cessna SkyCourier twin-engine, high-wing turboprop offers a combination of performance and lower operating costs for air freight, passenger and special mission operators. In addition to the freight version, there is a 19-passenger variant of the SkyCourier that includes crew and passenger doors for smooth boarding, as well as large cabin windows for natural light and views. Both configurations offer single-point pressure refuelling to enable faster turnarounds.
The aircraft is powered by two wing-mounted Pratt & Whitney PT6A-65SC turboprop engines and features the McCauley Propeller C779, a heavy-duty and reliable 110-inch aluminium four-blade propeller, which is full feathering with reversible pitch, designed to enhance the performance of the aircraft while hauling tremendous loads. The SkyCourier is operated with Garmin G1000 NXi avionics and has a maximum cruise speed of more than 200 ktas. The SkyCourier has a 900 nautical-mile maximum range. The aircraft features a large door and a flat floor cabin that is sized to handle up to three LD3 shipping containers with an impressive 6,000 pounds of payload capability.