Textron Aviation has rolled out the first production unit of the Cessna SkyCourier – a clean-sheet, twin-engine, large-utility turboprop – at the company’s manufacturing site in Wichita, Kansas.
“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,” said Ron Draper, president and CEO, Textron Aviation. “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.”
From the SkyCourier’s inception, launch customer FedEx Express and other members of Textron Aviation’s Customer Advisory Board were instrumental in shaping the aircraft’s design, from manufacturing methods and materials, to product features and serviceability. Textron Aviation said its employees incorporated this feedback and found opportunities to maximise quality and precision.
The company added that the production of the SkyCourier incorporates many of the latest advancements in aircraft manufacturing, including the use of monolithic machining throughout the airframe. With this technique, major assemblies are milled from a single piece of metal rather than assembled from smaller pieces, with the aims of reducing the overall number of parts and resulting in more precise tolerances for easier assembly.
Designed with serviceability at the forefront, the SkyCourier features quick-access points throughout for inspection and repairs. The team also developed patent-pending quick-release seats and overhead bins for quick installation by a single operator.
The SkyCourier made its inaugural flight in May 2020, and the flight test programme’s three aircraft have accumulated more than 2,100 hours. Certification is anticipated in the first half of 2022. Following that, this first production unit will be delivered to FedEx Express, the launch customer. FedEx Express has agreed to purchase up to 100 aircraft, with an initial fleet order of 50 cargo aircraft and options for 50 more.
The Cessna SkyCourier is a twin-engine, high-wing turboprop. In addition to the freight version, there is a 19-passenger variant that includes crew and passenger doors, as well as large cabin windows. Both configurations offer single-point pressure refuelling to enable faster turnarounds.
The SkyCourier has a maximum range of 900 nautical miles (1,667km) and a maximum cruise speed of more than 200 ktas (370km/h). The aircraft features a large door and a flat-floor cabin that is sized to handle up to three LD3 shipping containers with 6,000 lb (2,722kg) of payload capability in freighter mode.