Textron Aviation has unveiled a new clean-sheet regional-sized turboprop designed to seat up to 19 passengers or carry three LD3 containers.
The twin-engine turboprop Cessna SkyCourier 408 was officially launched on Tuesday (US time) with global logistics company FedEx Express the first customer with an order for 50 aircraft and options for 50 more.
Entry-into-service is planned for 2020, Textron Aviation said in a statement.
“The aircraft will fulfill a gap in this market segment with its superior performance and low operating costs in combination with the cabin flexibility, payload capability and efficiency only a clean-sheet design can offer,” Textron Aviation chief executive Scott Ernest said.
The aircraft, to be powered by two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65SC engines and designed with a maximum cruise speed of up to 200 knots and a range of 900nm, will be available in a passenger configuration that features both crew and passenger doors and large cabin windows.
Meanwhile, the SkyCourier in a cargo configuration would have a maximum payload capability of 2,720kg and be able to take three LD3 air freight containers loaded via a large cargo door and flat floor cabin.
From a regional routes perspective, the Cessna SkyCourier has a similar passenger capacity to the Beechcraft 1900D, which was retired by Air New Zealand in 2016.
However, it is smaller than the Saab 340s used by Australia’s Regional Express (Rex) which have 34 seats.
And unlike both of those types, the SkyCourier will be unpressurised.
The SkyCourier is also a larger aircraft than Cessna’s single-engine Caravan, which seats up to 13 passengers and which in freighter form has been part of the FedEx Express fleet for more than three decades.
“FedEx Express has had a great relationship with Textron Aviation over the years, and this new, advanced aircraft will play a key role in our feeder aircraft modernization strategy,” FedEX chief executive David Cunningham said.
“The Cessna SkyCourier 408 offers a number of significant features that will enhance our long-term feeder strategy.”