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Cessna SkyCourier
Fri, 05/17/2019 – 21:17

The Cessna SkyCourier is a twin-engine, high-wing, large-utility turboprop airplane that is being developed by the Wichita, Kansas-based manufacturer. Marketed as “building on the company’s proven success in the large-utility category,” the SkyCourier, a clean-sheet design that will be type designated the Cessna 408, was launched on Nov. 28, 2017, with FedEx Express serving as the launch customer for the airframe. In comparison to the Cessna Caravans that are currently utilized by FedEx Express for feeder operations, the SkyCourier will have “almost twice the volumetric capacity.” Powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) PT6A-65SC engines, the SkyCourier will be offered in both cargo and passenger configurations, with the first flight planned for mid-2019, and certification and entry into service to follow in 2020.


When configured to carry passengers, the SkyCourier will be able to accommodate up to 19 passengers in a layout that is primarily 2X1, with seats that have a 32-in. pitch and with USB charging ports “located throughout the seating area.” It is expected that the passenger variant will have both crew and passenger doors “for smooth boarding, as well as large cabin windows for great natural light and views.” Cabin storage can come in the form of “a netted rear-cabin cargo area that can accommodate luggage and equipment,” space that can be supplemented with optional overhead baggage compartments.


From an operational perspective, pilots will operate the SkyCourier using Garmin’s G1000NXi integrated flight deck – which will include three panels – while the airframe itself planned to be certified for single-pilot operations and flight into known icing (FIKI) conditions.


Mission and Performance

Further described as being “designed to succeed in fully loaded, high-tempo operations with maximum efficiency,” the SkyCourier, which is priced at $5.5 million, is promoted as providing value to cargo and passenger operators alike. With reference the former type of operator, it is hoped that the airframe will capitalize on the “boom in online commerce and package deliveries,” while also filling “a gap in the market with superior performance and low operating costs.” In addition to these configurations, Cessna “is also working on combi and special-mission versions, all to be built on the same production line.”


Although Cessna notes that the performance figures that they have thus far released are preliminary and subject to change, the Cessna 408 is expected to be capable of a maximum cruise speed of 200 kt. true airspeed (KTAS). Assuming a long-range cruise at 10,000 ft. while carrying National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) instrument flight rules (IFR) reserves, a maximum range of 900 nm is possible. However, when a cargo variant of the airframe is loaded with a 5,000-lb. payload, it is predicted that range will be reduced to 400 nm. Furthermore, both variants are planned to have a service ceiling of 25,000 ft., while a takeoff field length of 3,300 ft. is described as being possible from a level, hard-surface and dry runway.




Cessna 408 (SkyCourier) Specifications




72 ft.

54 ft. 10 in.

19 ft. 9 in.


Power Rating (shp)

2X Pratt & Whitney Canada



Maximum Payload

(Commuter Configuration) (lb.)

Maximum Payload

(Cargo Configuration) (lb.)





In addition to the above-noted maximum payloads, the cargo variant of the airframe will also feature a flat-floor cabin and an aft large cargo door (LCD) – that measures 87X69 in. and has a “low doorsill height for easy loading”– that “will support container and pallet operations.” The cabin itself will be able to accommodate “up to three LD3 shipping containers” in a cargo area that is 68 in. tall and 78 in. wide, and which also features “a built-in roller system and rigid cargo barrier.” The aforementioned high-tempo operations will be further enabled by the 408’s single-point pressure refueling, while operations from unimproved fields will be made possible by the airframe’s “rugged landing gear.” Beyond being equipped with a pair of PT6A turboprop engines – that will power two 110-in., four-blade, aluminum, auto-feathering and reversible McCauley Blackmac propellers – the SkyCourier itself will have a “conventional aluminum structure.”


The P&WC PT6A engines that will power the SkyCourier – the 1,100-shp -65SC variant – were “engineered for high payloads” and “conceived specifically for commercial applications.” They also include P&WC’s Full-Flight data Acquisition, Storage and Transmission (FAST) system, which is described as a “prognostic solution that helps optimize operations.” The FAST system – with its ability to “capture, analyze and wirelessly transmit high-density, full-flight data after each mission” – is promoted as enhancing an operator’s awareness of “engine health, usage and trends.” While airborne, FAST can also provide the pilot(s) with “features such as on-board event detection and crew alerts.” Additionally, the engine will have a time between overhaul (TBO) of 6,000 hr., an interval that is described as being “class leading.”  


Program Status/Operators

The SkyCourier will be produced at Cessna’s facilities in Wichita. As is noted above, FedEx Express is the launch customer for the freight variant, with an initial order of 50 airplanes, as well as options for a further 50. The first of those 50 airplanes “is expected in mid-2020, with subsequent deliveries on a schedule of one aircraft per month over a four-year period.”

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