What exactly is happening with the emerging Cessna Denali single-engine turboprop and when can customers get theirs? The first question is easy. The second one is coming into sharper focus.
In concept, the new turboprop is a direct competitor to the Pilatus PC12. Both planes are priced at more than $4.5 million. At 285 knots, the Denali would be just as fast as the big Swiss single, with a comparable cabin and slightly greater payload. Those features along with an all-new full FADEC GE Catalyst turboprop will win Textron a lot of orders as the Wichita made Denali looks to cut into the PC12’s monopoly on the market.
At the European Business Aircraft Expo in Geneva, Switzerland, Textron gave a progress report on the Denali, and the news is good. The team is closing in on completion of the prototype and the first two ground and flight-test articles. The prototype and the first two flight test planes will be used, obviously, in flight testing the new bird, which will begin later this year. Another element of the development is a so-called “iron bird,” an advanced systems simulator rig that will allow engineers to build, test and tweak the plane’s avionics, electrical and engine systems. And iron bird is typically a step that is done on the production of larger jets.
GE has also announced that it has made great progress on its 1300-shp Catalyst turboprop, having now topped the 1,000-hour mark in testing and having achieved full power on the test rig. The testing is also the proving ground for the all-new 105-inch diameter McCauley propeller that will be moving the air for the Catalyst engine on the Denali. Textron is banking heavily on the new GE engine, saying that it will cut down on fuel consumption and, hence, direct operating costs by improving efficiency by as much as 20 percent, it has claimed.
Cessna had originally planned to fly the plane in 2018, but has moved that date back to later this year.