By MARK HUBER
Last year, after almost a decade of rumors, speculation and anticipation, Textron Aviation introduced the Cessna Denali, a single-engined turboprop pressurized. Aeronautics, which has presented a large-scale model cabin model, is accepting letters of intent for the $ 4.8 million aircraft, with a single pilot and six to 10 passengers. Textron anticipates that a first flight will occur in 2018 and that the flight test program will last from 12 to 18 months. Deliveries could begin in late 2019 or early 2020.
The model is aimed directly at the market for the Pilatus PC-12, which until now has not faced a viable competitor. More than 1,400 PC-12s have been sold since 1994, and Textron’s goal is for Denali to offer lower operating and maintenance costs.
The company can also expect the model to attract customers who are increasingly avoiding their smaller twin of the 90 series Beechcraft King Air and do not mind spending an additional million dollars for an aircraft that is more fuel efficient and It has a much larger cabin. While its King Air 250 enjoys steady sales and the first-tier King Air 350 continues to sell well, the 90 series has seen sales fall precipitously in recent years, from 27 in 2013 to just 11 last year and an average of only 18 annually in the last four years, according to data from the Association of General Aviation Manufacturers.
The Denali arrives just in time to take advantage of the recent changes in European regulations, which now allow single-engine turbine charter operations in flight time with instruments. And it will offer Textron an offer of products in practically all the variation of the price of the turbo-helices, from the single of 208 Caravan of 2.2 million dollars to the twin King Air 350i of 7.5 million dollars.
Denali’s flat-floor cabin is 16 feet, 9 inches long – the same as the Cessna cabin, but slower than the Grand Caravan; the other dimensions of the cabin are almost identical, 58 inches tall and 63 inches wide for the Denali and 54 inches tall and 64 inches wide for the Grand Caravan. The Denali cabin is one inch taller, nine inches wider and one inch longer than the King Air 250, which sells for $ 1.3 million more. It’s the same height as the PC-12’s cabin, but three inches wider and two inches shorter.
Textron expects the Denali to have a range of 1,600 nautical miles with four passengers, a maximum cruising speed of 285 knots and a full payload of 1,100 pounds. The aircraft has a rear loading door of 53 by 59 inches (slightly larger than that of the PC-12) and a digital pressurization system that maintains a cabin from 6,130 feet to 31,000 feet. Options include a washbasin with external service belt and pocket door lock at the stern of the cabin.
The cabin incorporates large windows, LED lighting, a refreshment cabinet, and a luggage compartment accessible in flight. The interior is designed to be easily and quickly converted between passenger and cargo configurations. If the executive configuration model shown last year approaches the finished product, the Cessna designers deserve congratulations for developing a cabin with smooth and clean lines; curved side rails; sturdy sidewall boards; and attractive individual seats with arms that retract in the back, creating an even more spacious feeling.
Last summer, Cessna’s chief engineer told me that the company had applied the lessons learned from the new medium-sized Latitude jet to the Denali cabin, which is more similar to what you would expect to find in a private plane than in a turboprop . The external service stern washbasin is an unprecedented feature of an enterprise-class turboprop.
Denali’s sleek cabin will be equipped with the Garmin G3000 touchscreen avionics suite and will offer high-resolution multifunction displays and split-screen capability. The cockpit of the G3000 will include synthetic vision, weather radar, advanced terrain warning system (TAWS) and automatic surveillance and broadcast capabilities (ADS-B).
The aircraft will be powered by an advanced 1,240-watt turboprop engine that GE Aviation announced in 2015 and expects to fly next year. It will include full authority digital engine controls (FADEC) and single-lever power and propeller control, being one of the most “idiot-proof” ships that will exist, and will drastically reduce the pilot’s workload. This is particularly useful given that the Denali will be certified for the operation of the single pilot.
GE estimates that the engine could be 15 to 20 percent more efficient than comparable models. And its manufacturing employs 3D printing, which not only reduces its weight and improves reliability, but also substantially reduces production costs – perhaps up to 20% -, announced a GE executive last year. The initial interval of time between intervals will be 4,000 hours. The engine will be paired with a new McCauley compact 105-inch diameter, five-blade, constant-speed propeller, which is full-plumage with reversible pitch and ice protection. (The thrust of a propeller rotates the blades parallel to the air flow to reduce drag in the event of engine failure, thus increasing the sliding distance. Inversion of the tilt angle of the blades after landing reverses the thrust direction and can slow a plane faster than just using the brakes.)
While Textron has not released track test numbers yet, it is to be expected that this ship can make short landings a much easier task.
The new GE engine, the wide, refined cabin and the Garmin touchscreen avionics will make the Denali a serious competitor. Cessna took her time and did her homework when she conceived this plane, and the effort will be worth it.
A look at Denali Cessna:
Price: $ 4.8 million (in 2016)
Maximum cruising speed: 285 kt Range * 1,600 nm
Maximum payload with full fuel: 1,100 lb
Maximum altitude: 31,000 feet
Dimensions of the cabin: Height: 58 in; Width: 63 in; Length: 16 feet, 9 inches.