Textron Aviation announced its new "SkyCourier" (Model 408) high-winged transport aircraft in November of 2017 to be produced under the Cessna brand label. The aircraft is intended to seize a market position between light compact transport models and higher-cost, medium-sized utility-minded haulers. The design is an all-new attempt by the company and has been developed with input from FedEx. In turn, FedEx has committed to becoming the Cessna SkyCourier's launch customer with 100 on order (50 through an initial batch with an option for 50 more aircraft to follow).
The new product is similar in function to the existing Cessna "Caravan" (Model 208) but made dimensionally larger for increase hauling capabilities in the growing cargo market. The Caravan line was introduced in 1984 and is in active use today (2017) with some 2,500 units produced - of note is that FedEx is one of its high-profile operators.
As it stands, the SkyCourier sports a twin-engined configuration and the nacelles are installed on the braced high-mounted (straight) wing mainplanes allowing for the proper ground clearance and excellent lifting properties. A fixed tricycle undercarriage is used for ground-running. The flight crew sits at front, aft of the short nosecone, in a side-by-side arrangement with good views of the action ahead. The tail unit incorporates a single vertical fin with high-mounted horizontal planes (the classic Multhopp "T-tail").
Internally, the SkyCourier will have a flexible configuration capability meaning that it can be outfitted to carry cargo or passengers depending on customer requirements. Up to three LD3-class shipping containers can be fitted into the hold measuring up to a maximum of 6,000lb of cargo. A super-wide 87"x69" door will facilitate cargo movement on and off the plane. In the passenger-minded single-aisle (2x1 abreast seating) configuration, it will seat nineteen with a maximum overall weight limit (including luggage) of 5,000lb. Up to eight large vision ports will dot the sides of the fuselage with an entry door fitted at the rear of the portside. Pilots will have separate, automobile-style doors at the nose for entry-exit.
Dimensionally, the aircraft is given an overall length of 54.9 feet with a wingspan of 72 feet and a height of 19.8 feet. It will cruise at speeds up to200 knots and range out to 900 nautical miles (clean) up to altitudes nearing 25,000 feet. Power is set to come from the popular in-service 2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada (PWC) PT6A-65SC turboprop engines outputting 1,100 horsepower each. The four-bladed aluminum propellers will come from McCauley and feature a reverse and auto-feathering capability.
Development on the SkyCourier is ongoing (2017) with testing set to continue into 2018-2019. Service entry is tentatively scheduled for sometime in 2020.
November 2017 - Package carrier FedEx has been named the launch customer of the new SkyCourier line.
April 2018 - It was revealed that the SkyCourier design has undergone wind-tunnel testing.
February 2022 - Cessna has unveiled the first production-quality SkyCourier airframe. Service entry is expected later this year (through FedEx Express).
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Special-Mission: MEDical EVACuation (MEDEVAC)
Extraction of wounded combat or civilian elements by way of specialized onboard equipment and available internal volume or external carrying capability.
✓Special-Mission: Search & Rescue (SAR)
Ability to locate and extract personnel from areas of potential harm or peril (i.e. downed airmen in the sea).
General transport functionality to move supplies/cargo or personnel (including wounded and VIP) over range.
Used in roles serving the commercial aviation market, ferrying both passengers and goods over range.
Used in the Very-Important-Person (VIP) passenger transport role, typically with above-average amenities and luxuries as standard.
✓Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR), Scout
Surveil ground targets / target areas to assess environmental threat levels, enemy strength, or enemy movement.
Houses, or can house (through specialized variants), radar equipment for searching, tracking, and engagement of enemy elements.
Incorporates two or more engines, enhancing survivability and / or performance.
Inherent ability of airframe to take considerable damage.
Can reach and operate at higher altitudes than average aircraft of its time.
EXTENDED RANGE PERFORMANCE
Capability to travel considerable distances through onboard fuel stores.
Supports pressurization required at higher operating altitudes for crew survival.
Design incorporates feature(s) that facilitates loading / unloading of cargo / personnel from the aircraft.
54.8 ft (16.71 m)
72.0 ft (21.95 m)
19.8 ft (6.02 m)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Cessna SkyCourier 408 production variant)
2 x Pratt & Whitney Canada (PWC) PT6A-65SC turboprop engines developing 1,100 horsepower each driving four-bladed propeller units.
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