Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Caravan With Enthusiasm

Blackhawk modifications of Waco, Texas, converts basic caravans to Super Caravans

When I was a college kid, more horsepower had only one goal. More speed. A buddy and I put together a souped-up stock car we hoped could win dirttrack races in the Southwestern United States, and we were constantly in search of more power.

Operating on a shoestring budget, we stood almost no chance of winning races, and sure enough, we didn't. We did have great fun, however, spent most of our money and succeeded in raising horsepower by probably 30%. Once in a while, we even went to class.

Fast-forward 40 years, change the vehicles from cars to airplanes, and extra power is still the most popular method of improving performance. Speed isn't always the goal, however, which isn't too surprising, because adding power isn't a very efficient method of increasing speed.

Drag increases as the square of speed, so it would require massive power increases to yield a disproportionately small improvement in speed. (Certainly, Formula 1 and Indy cars that operate at or near 200 mph must pay heed to drag concerns, but sheer, brute power is still the king in auto racing.)

When the machine is an airplane, the objective of additional power is typically more sophisticated, better payload, improved climb or reduced runway requirements. If those are the mission parameters, power may be exactly the right solution.

Super Caravan
Apparently, Blackhawk Modifications of Waco, Texas, has its fingers on the pulse. Blackhawk has specialized in upgrading power on a variety of turboprop aircraft since 1999, including Beech King Air 90s and 200s; Piper Cheyenne I, II and IIXLs; Cessna Conquest 1s and Caravans, both Grand and now Standard. Blackhawk has delivered some 480 more powerful turboprop singles and twins in the short span of 13 years.

Take the newest case in point, the Blackhawk PT6A-42A Caravan I conversion. Cessna's workhorse model 208 has always been a popular weightlifter, so much so that the Wichita manufacturer recently delivered its 2,000th unit. The original Cessna 208 design was fitted with 600 shaft horsepower (shp), and that was upgraded to 675 shp as standard in 1998. Federal Express, the huge overnight package service, loves the airplane so much that it now operates some 250 of the type. FedEx uses Caravans on feeder routes from small towns to major collection points.

Labels: Turbine Singles

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