Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Caravan With Enthusiasm

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

A speed increased of about 30 knots is realized with the Blackhawk modifications.
The nice thing about a turbine is that once it's running, there's little left to do but fly. Chris Duncan made the first takeoff to demonstrate the airplane's short- field characteristics, and the prototype Blackhawk Caravan 208A leaped off the ground as if something bigger were chasing it. I didn't have any easy method of measuring our takeoff roll, but it looked to be well under 1,000 feet.

I took the controls for the rest of the flight and held a rate of climb of 105 knots for the short climb to cruise altitude. Vertical speed quickly climbed to 1,500 fpm, this despite the 30-degree Celsius surface temperature at Waco. The Caravan doesn't demand a high-nose attitude for climb. The rate of climb still allows a reasonable view over the cowling, and cruise climb only improves on a good thing.

The airplane's impressive climb rate dropped off slightly, but the airplane was still lofting uphill at 1,000 fpm through 10,000 feet. Considering that most operators won't always be flying at max gross, high/hot situations shouldn't be much of a consideration for this airplane.

As mentioned earlier, a better climb rate can be more than an extra safety factor. Good climb can actually offer financial benefits. Frank Hinshaw, owner of Skydive Hawaii in Dillingham on the island of Oahu, says his two Blackhawks have made a big difference in his business. "We can go higher with no noticeable increase in fuel use," says Hinshaw, "and we can carry 20 passengers instead of 18 with our increased useful load. (Plus), we can fly 20 loads a day instead of 12 because of the (increased) climb rate."

The Blackhawk conversion adds a 40% larger air cooler under the cowl to help counter high and hot conditions.
Incidentally, since we mentioned gross weight, it's much improved over the stock airplane. The P&W -42A is slightly heavier than the old -114A, but not by much. Blackhawk's conversion flies with a gross weight of 8,362 pounds, yet, empty weight only increases by 60 pounds with the big engine. That means a full 300 pounds of the higher gross translates directly to payload.

For those owners looking for more speed, the Blackhawk Caravan provides about 30 knots better performance at two-mile altitudes. Chris and I leveled at 11,500 feet over Eastern Texas, punched up the autopilot to eliminate human error and watched the airspeed settle on 190 knots true. Remember, we were flying at essentially max gross weight on a warm day. I've delivered a half-dozen stock Caravans to destinations around the world and rarely seen more than 160 knots cruise at max gross weight.

Of course, specific fuel consumption is pretty much immutable, so a 25% increase in horsepower results in 25% higher fuel burn. That means normal cruise in the Blackhawk jumps from 290 to 370 pounds per hour. As partial compensation, the Blackhawk airplane cruises about 19% faster, so you're not losing much in the trade.

Labels: Turbine Singles

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