By Chase Hagl
Textron’s Beechcraft Denali Completes Its First Flight
On Tuesday, Textron Aviation’s Beechcraft Denali — the manufacturer’s brand new single-engine turboprop aircraft — took off for the skies and completed its first flight. With high hopes of certification by 2023, the flight marks the beginning of the aircraft’s “flight test” phase and looks to potentially prove the aircraft’s top-of-the-line performance.
Formed in 2014, the aircraft manufacture, Textron Aviation, consists of well-recognized brands including that of Cessna, Beechcraft and Hawker.
“Today’s landmark flight is not only a significant occasion for the Denali, it’s a truly great moment for our employees, our suppliers, and the customers who will be flying this aircraft,” stated Ron Draper, president and CEO, Textron Aviation in a press release on Tuesday. “With its more environmentally friendly engine and largest cabin in its class, this is an aircraft that will change the landscape for high-performance single-engine turboprop aircraft. Today’s flight is just the beginning for what we anticipate will be a long list of important accomplishments as we prepare the aircraft for certification and customer deliveries.”
Taking off from runway 19R at the Wichita, Kansas’ Eisenhower National Airport on Tuesday, the aircraft flew for approximately 2-hours and 50-minutes, reaching an altitude of 15,600 ft with a top speed of 180 knots.
In the cockpit piloting the clean-sheet design aircraft was senior test pilot Peter Gracey and chief test pilot Dustin Smisor.
The flight consisted of a wide range of tests, including the aircraft’s performance, stability and control, as well as propulsion, environmental, flight controls and avionics systems.
“From the beginning of the flight to the end, the Denali was simply flawless,” Gracey said, following the flight. “It’s just a great aircraft to fly. The Catalyst engine was outstanding, and the aircraft performed to the levels we were anticipating. First flights really can’t go more smoothly than this. We are really off to an excellent start for the Denali flight test program.”
The aircraft flaunts General Electrics’ high-performing Catalyst engine — first introduced in 2015 — making it the first aircraft to ever be powered by said engine. The engine can be powered with more sustainable aviation fuels and is capable of burning up to 20 percent less fuel than the older existing turboprop engines flying today.
Subsequently, its engines play an important role in contributing to the aviation industry’s ongoing trend for shifting away from traditional fossil fuels and reducing emissions. The Denali utilizes a five-bladed, 105-inch diameter, composite constant speed propeller designed by McCauley — a notable company in propeller manufacturing.
Equipped with top-of-the-line technology and equipment, the Denali is engineered to reach cruise speeds of 285 knots at 1,6000 nautical miles on a full fuel payload of 1,100 pounds with one pilot and four passengers.
Apart from its performance, the Denali displays a spacious flat-floor cabin that offers its customers flexibility between cargo and passenger configurations. The standard configuration for the aircraft makes use of six individual reclining seats with the option of up to nine. The cabin includes large cabin windows, a refreshment cabinet towards the front of the aircraft, an inflight accessible baggage compartment, and the option for a lavatory in the aft of the cabin.
The Denali’s performance, combined with its comfortability and sustainability make for a very appealing aircraft to buyers in the market today. Once certified, the aircraft has great potential to become a leader in its specific segment for years to come.