Textron has successfully flown its latest offering from the Cessna stable – the twin-turboprop 408 SkyCourier. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6-powered freighter has been specifically developed to carry three LD3 unit load devices per the requirements of FedEx Express, which has orders for 50 examples and options to double that number.
Ron Draper, Textron Aviation president and CEO, said: “Today was an exciting day for our employees, our suppliers and our customers. The Cessna SkyCourier performed exactly as we expected, which is a testament to the entire team of men and women who worked together to prepare for this day… I’m proud of the way the team has persevered through disruptions caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic and remained focused on getting us to this point. The Cessna SkyCourier will be an excellent product in its segment due to its combination of cabin flexibility, payload capability, superior performance and low operating costs. Our customers will be very pleased with what they experience from this aircraft.”
The Cessna SkyCourier flew from the company’s Beech Field Airport, Wichita, Kansas, piloted by Corey Eckhart, senior test pilot, and Aaron Tobias, chief test pilot. During the 2hr 15min flight, the team tested the aircraft’s performance, stability and control, as well as its propulsion, environmental, flight controls and avionics systems before returning to Beech Field.
Eckhart added: “We were very pleased with how the Cessna SkyCourier performed throughout its first flight. It was particularly impressive to see how stable the aircraft handled on take-off and landing. The [aircraft] already displays a high level of maturity in its flight characteristics, especially for a first flight. We were able to accomplish everything we wanted on this flight, and that’s an excellent start to the flight test programme.”
The prototype aircraft, along with five additional flight and ground test articles, will form the basis of the type’s certification efforts. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the aircraft had been expected to enter service later this year.