By Ian McMurtry
Cessna Rolls Out First Skycourier Slated for Delivery
Cessna continues to push forward with the unveiling of the SkyCourier, its newest twin-engine aircraft that is expected to start service soon. This week, the airline officially rolled out the first production SkyCourier which will take delivery once testing is complete.
The manufacturer was quick to thank Federal Aviation Administration and customers for their feedback in the design, noting that the clean slate has allowed Cessna to create a fresh design to maximize the current aviation scene and help customers with issues that current competing aircraft plague their operations with.
Textron Aviation CEO Ron Draper commented on the event, saying, “today is a rewarding day for our employees who have worked to design and build what I believe will become a legendary airplane for our company. 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.”
The Cessna SkyCourier takes into account multiple new machining and designing techniques to take Textron into the next generation of aircraft, including monolithic machining. Monolithic machining is the milling of parts on a single piece of material instead of assembling smaller parts, cutting down on tolerances and relying less on cutting parts out of many different pieces of material. The aircraft is also equipped to come with quick-change seats and the ability for maintenance to access the aircraft from many additional points than previous Cessna designs.
Built-in Wichita, Kansas, the SkyCourier is a 900-mile radius twin-engine turboprop driven aircraft that is focused on replacing existing Cessna 208s and Beechcraft 1900s. The self-named 408, has a capacity of 19 passengers and a max payload of 6,000 pounds at a speed of 200 knots. The aircraft is powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65SC turboprops delivering roughly 1,100 horsepower each.
The aircraft took flight in May 2020 following a rollout a few weeks prior to the first airborne operation. Since then two more SkyCouriers have joined the initial aircraft in the skies, accumulating over 2,100 hours of testing and finishing the final stages of testing now before the first delivery can be made.
Deliveries are expected to begin in the first half of 2022, with the launch airline FedEx Express expected to see their first aircraft soon thereafter. The express logistics carrier has a firm order for 50 aircraft placed with Cessna and an additional 50 on offer for options. This aircraft will go to work replacing the FedEx Feeder fleet of Cessna 208s which service smaller markets throughout the United States and Canada.