My Cart

Close
Welcome to U2 Graphics! We are ready for takeoff.

Cessna SkyCourier

Posted on June 14 2022

Cessna SkyCourier user+1@localho… Tue, 06/14/2022 - 21:17

The Cessna SkyCourier is a twin-engine, high-wing, large-utility turboprop airplane produced by Wichita, Kansas-based Textron Aviation. A clean-sheet design that is designated the Model 408, the SkyCourier was announced by the company on Nov. 28, 2017, with FedEx Express serving as the launch customer. As the launch customer for the type, FedEx Express placed an initial order for 50 airframes, while also having options for a further 50. In comparison to the Cessna Caravans that are currently utilized by FedEx Express for feeder operations, the SkyCourier has “almost twice the volumetric capacity.” Powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) PT6A-65SC engines, the SkyCourier is offered in both cargo and passenger configurations, with Textron Aviation stating at the time of the airframe’s launch that it was expected to enter service in 2020. Prior to that anticipated entry-into-service date, the SkyCourier prototype made its first flight on May 17, 2020, a 2-hr. 15-min. flight from Beech Factory Airport in Wichita. Following a flight-test program that involved three flight-test airframes and over 2,100 hr.—and despite the entry-into-service date stated when the airplane was announced—the Model 408 received FAA certification on March 11, 2022. Subsequently, Textron Aviation announced the first SkyCourier delivery—Serial No. 408-003 and registered as N408FE—on May 9, 2022, to FedEx Express.

Cabin (Passenger)

When configured to carry passengers, the SkyCourier is able to accommodate up to 19 passengers in a stand-up cabin that that a length of 23 ft. 4 in., width of 6 ft. 2 in. and height of 5 ft. 11 in. The passenger cabin layout is primarily 1 X 2, in seats that have a 32-in. pitch and with USB charging ports located in each row. The passenger version has separate crew and passenger doors—a pair of forward crew doors and an aft passenger door—with the former giving the pilots the ability to board the airplane without going through the cabin. Passengers enter the cabin using fold-down stairs located on the left side of the aft fuselage, with those stairs accessed through the large cargo door that has a width of 7 ft. 3 in. and height of 5 ft. 9 in. Located “at each seat row” are large windows that allow natural light into the cabin, while a number of options are also available for the SkyCourier’s cabin, including air conditioning and oxygen systems. Textron Aviation also promotes a “conversion option” that allows operators to reconfigure the cabin from passenger to freight layouts in a short period of time, with the size of the cabin and the cargo door noted as being features that allow for the reconfiguration.

The storage space of passenger-configured SkyCouriers includes aft and nose baggage compartments—the latter of which has a volume of 18 ft.3—space that can be supplemented with optional overhead bins. Textron Aviation describes the SkyCourier as having 186 ft.3 of cargo can space that can accommodate up to 1,500 lb., while the FAA type certificate data sheet (TCDS) states that the maximum baggage capacity is divided between 300 lb. in the nose compartment, 1,200 lb. in the aft baggage compartment—including the “aft baggage compartment shelf”—and 60 lb. in each overhead bin. The presence of a bulkhead between the baggage area and passenger cabin is also noted as allowing the airframe to meet Transportation Security Administration (TSA) “requirements for airlines.”

Avionics

From an operational perspective, pilots operate the SkyCourier using Garmin’s G1000 NXi integrated flight deck, which includes three high-resolution flight displays that are measure 12 in. On those displays are shown an engine indicating system, while other avionics features include charts and maps, cockpit-voice and flight-data recorders, a QWERTY keyboard and Class B terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS-B). Beyond the standard avionics features, available options include synthetic vision, weather radar and wireless connectivity. Other aspects of the Garmin avionics that are promoted by Textron Aviation include improved graphics, “split-screen capability” and the improved speed of the hardware.

Mission and Performance

Further promoted for its reliability and low cost of maintenance—as well as performance and return on investment—the SkyCourier is described as having benefits for cargo and passenger operators alike. With reference the former type of operator, it is hoped that the airframe will capitalize on the “boom in online commerce and package deliveries,” while, according to Textron Aviation, also filling “a gap in the market” because of its “low operating costs” and performance. In addition to those types of operations, it is also marketed as able to perform a variety special missions, including air ambulance/medevac, parachute drop, resupply; surveillance and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); while also having the ability to provide “support [to] large-scale military maneuver[s].”

Performance limitations of the Model 408 include a maximum-operating speed (MMO) of 210-kt. calibrated airspeed (KCAS) and a maximum-operating altitude of 25,000 ft. Furthermore, when no wind is present and in standard conditions, both the cargo and passenger versions of the airframe have a maximum cruise speed of 210-kt. true airspeed (KTAS). Assuming a ferry mission that is conducted at the airframe’s long-range cruise speed, with no wind and in standard conditions and while carrying National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) instrument flight rules (IFR) reserves (100-nm alternate), the passenger-configured SkyCourier is capable of maximum range of 920 nm, a figure that the freight-configured version increases to 940 nm. However, when the cargo version is carrying a 5,000-lb. payload, the range is reduced to slightly more than 400 nm. When carrying the SkyCourier’s maximum payload of 6,000 lb., the range of a freight-configured airframe is further limited to around 200 nm. Comparatively, when loaded with the full-fuel payload, the range is in excess of 800 nm. When carrying 19 passengers, the SkyCourier has a 400-nm range, while the range of a passenger airframe with full fuel is 890 nm.

Textron Aviation states that the SkyCourier’s field performance assumes no wind and standard conditions, as well as sea-level altitude and a 15C temperature, the airframe’s maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) and a dry, hard-surface and level runway. Based on those assumptions, the takeoff field length of passenger-configured SkyCouriers is 3,660 ft., a figure that is reduced to 2,700 ft. on cargo-carrying airplanes. While the airframe manufacturer does not specify the conditions under which it is accomplished, both the freighter and passengers versions of the SkyCourier are advertised as having a landing distance of 2,570 ft.

Variants

Cessna SkyCourier (Textron Model 408) Specifications

Commercial Designation

Cessna SkyCourier

Maximum Certified Passenger Capacity

19 (Passenger Variant)

Maximum Occupants

2

Maximum Range (nm)

920 (Passenger)

940 (Freighter)

Engine (2X)

Pratt & Whitney PT6A-65SC

Takeoff/Maximum Continuous Engine Limits (shp)

1,110

Basic Empty Weight (lb.)

12,325 (Passenger)

11,000 (Freighter)

Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW)(lb.)

19,000

Maximum Landing Weight (lb.)

18,600

Usable Fuel Capacity (gal./lb.)

720/4,826

Useful Load (lb.) (Passenger/Freighter)

6,345

7,870

Maximum Payload (lb.) (Passenger/Freighter)

5,000

6,000

Full-Fuel Payload (lb.) (Passenger/Freighter)

1,719

3,044

Wingspan

72 ft. 3 in.

Wing Area (Ft.2)

441

Length

55 ft. 1 in.

Height

20 ft. 8 in.

McCauley Propeller and PT6A-65SC Engine

The P&WC PT6A engines that power the SkyCourier—the 1,100-shp -65SC variant—are described as being “engineered for high payloads” and include the engine manufacturer’s Full-Flight data Acquisition, Storage and Transmission (FAST) system, which is promoted as a “prognostic solution that helps optimize operations.” While airborne, the FAST system can also provide the pilot(s) with crew alerts, “on-board event detection and turbine blade creep counting.” Additionally, the engine will have a time between overhaul (TBO) of 6,000 hr., an interval that is described as being “class leading.” The PT6A-65SC was certified by Transport Canada on March 4, 2021, with the FAA TCDS for the engine describing it as a “free turbine turboprop” engine that has a single-annular combustion chamber and a “[four] axial plus one centrifugal stage comp[ressor].” Additional components of that engine include gas-generator and power turbines that have one and two stages, respectively. Displayed on the multifunction display (MFD) of the G1000NXi is the status of the engine’s filter and oil level, while the engines are protected by a torque limiter.

Those Pratt & Whitney Canada engines power a pair of four-blade McCauley propellers—model 4HFR34C779/110FDA-0—that are made of aluminum and which have a “new aerodynamic shape for the SkyCourier mission,” a 110-in. maximum diameter and are “full feathering and reversible.” Furthermore, McCauley notes that each propeller weighs 180.5 lb. and includes a hydraulic control system that is single acting.

SkyCourier Limitations and Specifications

Despite the differences between the freighter and passenger versions of the Model 408, both have common MTOW and maximum landing weights of 19,000 lb. and 18,600 lb., respectively. The type’s 720-gal. (4,826-lb.) usable fuel capacity is carried in a pair of 360-gal. (2,413-lb.) wing tanks. Although those limitations are common to the type, a number of other weights differ depending upon whether an airplane is configured to carry freight or passengers, weights that include the basic empty and operating weights, maximum and full-fuel payloads and useful load. With regard to basic empty weight, the 12,352-lb. basic empty weight of passenger-configured airframes exceeds the comparable figure of SkyCouriers configured for to carry freight, while the useful load of 6,345 lb. is lower than the comparable weight of freight-configured airplanes. The basic operating weight of airframes equipped with a passenger cabin is 12,725 lb., a weight that assumes a SkyCourier operated by two pilots and equipped for flight into known icing (FIKI) conditions and with Class A TAWS (TAWS-A), TCAS II and weather radar options. Textron Aviation promotes this version of the Model 408 as having a maximum payload of 5,000 lb.; however, when full fuel is carried the payload limit is reduced to 1,719 lb.

Airframe features that enhance ground operations include single-point pressure refueling—which helps to enable the SkyCourier’s quick turns—a benefit that is noted as being particularly important to the efficiency of passenger operations. Another feature that is beneficial for ground operations is the ground service bus which, when “connected [to a] power cart,” gives crews the ability to utilize exterior and internal lighting without requiring the airframe’s main power. Operations from “remote locations” are made possible by the ruggedness of the landing gear, with landing gear features such as its fixed position, nosewheel steering and manual breaks promoted as being particularly relevant in enabling operations from such locations. Operations in adverse weather are further enabled by the fact that the glass windshield is heated, as well as through the installation of optional deice boots on the wings. Promoted by the airframe manufacturer as having “simple and reliable system architectures” that include pneumatic rudder bias and flight controls that are manual, the SkyCourier airframe itself has a “conventional aluminum structure.”

SkyCourier Freighter

While it does share the maximum takeoff and landing weights—as well as the usable fuel capacity—of SkyCouriers outfitted to carry passengers, airframes equipped to carry freight have a lower basic empty weight (11,000 lb.) and basic operating weight (11,200 lb.), the latter of which is based on a single pilot and an airplane equipped for FIKI conditions and with TCAS I and weather radar options. In contrast to that reduced weight, the useful load of 7,870 lb. and the 6,000-lb. maximum payload are higher than the comparable weights of passenger-configured SkyCouriers, with the latter weight reduced to 3,044 lb. when carrying full fuel. According to Textron Aviation, the payload capacity allows for freight to placed in a number of different configurations and locations, with the airplane remaining inside of its weight-and-balance limitations. The SkyCourier’s ability to carry “large pallets and other cargo”—making use of the entire maximum payload capacity—also provides operators with flexibility in the types of missions that the airplane can perform, missions that can include the carriage of containerized, high-volume and oversized freight.  

Marketed as having cabin dimensions that are substantially larger than competing airplanes, the SkyCourier is also noted for its ability to accommodate large pallets and other types of cargo, with that cargo loaded into the cabin through the previously mentioned cargo door. Although the cabin height and length are common between freight- and passenger-configured airplanes, the cabin width of the freighters is increased by 3 in. to 6 ft. 5 in. In spite of the cabin dimensions that are common to both versions of the airframe, the freighter does have a reduced capacity of two occupants, including the single required pilot. Furthermore, when the 38-ft.3 aft storage compartment is included, the cabin has a volume of 884 ft.3 The floor can allow as much as 200 lb./ft.2 to be carried, a feature that Textron Aviation promotes as allowing the airframe accommodate an additional amount of payload, with the cabin floor panels able to be replaced expeditiously “if [they are] damaged.” The combination of the SkyCourier’s cargo door and cabin space allow it to carry four LD2 containers or three LD3 containers, the former of which is noted as being smaller. A benefit of being able to carry containers that are pre-loaded is that doing so removes “the need for sorting and loading of individual items during aircraft loading,” with freight also capable of being carried on pallets. Overall, the airframe manufacturer states that “operator[s] [have] significant flexibility to load” freight of all sizes, types and weights.

Beyond the size of the cargo door, volume of the cabin and the ability to carry containerized and palletized cargo, additional cabin features are also available to Model 408 operators engaged in freight carriage. Those features include cabin paneling that is described as being “durable,” cargo nets that are optional, a “rigid cargo barrier” and “multiple attach points.” An additional option for the SkyCourier’s cabin is a floor roller system that increases the speed at which the loading of freight can be accomplished, with that increased speed enabled by “allowing large items to be rolled fore and aft in the aircraft.” Another factor that contributes to the quickness with which turnarounds can be accomplished is the ability of operators to “fill and weigh each container,” which can then be “load[ed] directly onto the aircraft.”

Program Status/Operators

Produced at Textron Aviation’s facilities in Wichita, the second and third Model 408 flight-test airframes made their first flights in the third quarter of 2020. The first flight of the second flight-test airframe—designated P1—took place on Aug. 11, 2020, a flight which lasted 1 hr. 35 min. According to the airframe manufacturer, the primary roles of P1 were to test airframe systems such as the avionics, environmental control and propulsion. P1 also represented the first Cessna 408 to be configured as a freighter, as well as the first example of a “conforming production flight-test aircraft.” The third flight-test airframe—designated P2— made its 90-min. first flight on Sept. 28, 2020, with that airframe also representing the final flight-test airframe to be used as part of the SkyCourier’s test program. In contrast to the P1 airframe, the P2’s cabin was configured for passenger operations, with that airplane used for avionics, cold and hot weather and flammable fluid testing. Subsequently, Textron Aviation announced on Feb. 4, 2022, the rollout of the first production Model 408 from the company’s Wichita facilities.

References

  • AWIN Article Archives
  • FedEx, McCauley, Pratt & Whitney and Textron Aviation Commercial Materials
  • FAA TCDS (Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65SC, Textron Aviation Model 408)
  • Transport Canada TCDS (PT6A-65SC)
Channel
Business Aviation
Market Indicator Code
Business
Article page size
10
Profile page size
10
Program Profile ID
459601