On 28 November Textron Aviation confirmed long circulating rumours that it was developing a new ‘clean sheet’ twin-turboprop utility aircraft, now revealed as the Cessna SkyCourier 408, with FedEx Express as launch customer

“With our depth of expertise and proven success in new product development, we were eager to work directly with a world-class company like FedEx Express to jointly develop the SkyCourier,” said Scott Ernest, President and Chief Executive Officer of Cessna parent Textron Aviation. “The aircraft will fulfil 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.”

Aimed at high utilisation operations, the SkyCourier 408 will be offered in cargo and passenger versions. The cargo variant will have a large cargo door and a flat floor cabin capable of accommodating up to three LD3 shipping containers, and a 6,000lb maximum payload.

The nineteen-passenger variant will have both crew and passenger doors for easy boarding, and large cabin windows providing natural light and easy viewing. Both configurations will have single-point pressure refuelling to enable fast turnarounds. Powered by two 1,100-shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-65SC turboshafts, the aircraft will have a maximum cruising speed of up to 200kt, 3,300ft takeoff run, 25,000ft service ceiling and maximum range of 900nm. Base price is $5.5 million.

FedEx Express has placed an initial fleet order for 50 in cargo configuration, and taken options on fifty more. Service entry is planned for 2020. FedEx Express has operated single-engine Cessna 208 Caravans for more than thirty years, noted its President and Chief Executive Officer David L Cunningham at the launch ceremony, adding, “This new, advanced aircraft will play a key role in our feeder aircraft modernisation strategy.”

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