Textron Aviation’s newest airplane should hit the market at an opportune time and capture new business for the Wichita-based manufacturer of Beechcraft and Cessna aircraft.
Textron Aviation on Monday unveiled details of its newest airplane, a single-engine turboprop, on the eve of the European Business Aviation Convention and Exposition in Geneva, Switzerland.
Officials of the Wichita-based parent of Cessna and Beechcraft said its unnamed turboprop will have a top cruise speed of 285 knots, or about 328 mph, a maximum range of 1,600 nautical miles – about the distance between Los Angeles and Chicago – and a full fuel payload of 1,100 pounds.
It also will feature a 53-by-59-inch cargo door and capacity for one pilot and up to eight passengers.
And in keeping with the newest Cessna Citation business jets, the Latitude and the Longitude, the $4.5 million turboprop will feature a flat floor in the cabin.
It is an airplane that will “resonate in the market space,” said Kriya Shortt, Textron Aviation’s senior vice president of marketing and sales. She added it’s a segment of the market that the company has not competed in but one that has seen 12.5 percent growth in the past five years.
The Textron turboprop, which will be built in Wichita, will compete directly with the Pilatus PC-12, a Swiss-made single engine turboprop of which more than 1,300 have been delivered since 1994.
“It’s a nice market that they really haven’t serviced,” said business aviation forecaster Rolland Vincent, who is in Geneva for the EBACE show. “Pilatus has carved that niche for themselves.”
Vincent thinks the airplane will compete well against the PC-12, especially with a new engine built by GE Aviation that he said will give the Textron Aviation airplane 10 percent more power than its competitor, and 20 percent lower fuel burn.
“It’s got some nice features,” he said of GE’s 1,240-shaft-horsepower engine. “It’s a very, very competitive engine.”
The new airplane’s specifications match well against the PC-12 except for the distance it can cover between fuel stops. Pilatus claims an 1,845 nautical-mile range for the PC-12, which is 245 more nautical miles more than Textron’s new offering.
“Maybe that’s a disadvantage for an initial aircraft,” Vincent said, but most single-engine turboprop airplanes “are almost never used at that range. It’s almost bragging rights.”
Vincent added that the timing of the new airplane – first flight of the clean-sheet design airplane is expected in 2018 – is ideal because European regulators are expected to soon allow use of single-engine turboprops for charter flights in instrument conditions.
“That creates some demand for single-engine business aircraft, so the timing is good,” he said.
Textron Aviation also made a couple of other announcements on Monday in advance of EBACE, which runs Tuesday through Thursday:
▪ The company said it has successfully joined the wings and fuselage of its first Cessna Citation Longitude, which will be the biggest Citation yet. The jet, which will be assembled at the Textron Aviation East Campus near Central and Webb, is on track for first flight this summer and a 2017 entry into service.
▪ Textron Aviation’s Shortt said in a separate news release Monday that the company has seen a 20 percent increase in jet and turboprop sales in Europe between the first quarters of 2015 and 2016.