Turboprops—workhorses of business aviation

Advantages include fuel savings, short fields, reduced DOCs, efficient low-FL capability, good icy runway characteristics.

By Ken Baylor
Lead Dispatcher, Flight Dept USA

Hawker Beechcraft King Air 250 has been outfitted with larger propellers and a new ram air recovery system that deliver better performance than ever before.

Turboprop aircraft have always been known as the workhorses of any fleet. With their typical operating cost being lower than that of a jet, their ability to carry large amounts of cargo or passenger loads into hard-to-reach locations has earned them a solid reputation as the sport utility vehicles of the sky.

With the rise in fuel and maintenance costs, operators—both passenger and cargo—are looking for a worthy alternative to fuel-hungry jets while still being able to meet their current productivity. Expecta­tions like dispatch reliability, lower variable cost per hour, range and payload capacity are being met and exceeded at all levels.

Companies that run multiple operations within a region have come to find that it's often more cost effective to operate a turboprop shuttle back and forth versus using airline services.

Ron Mumm, former director of flight ops for BellSouth, relates how operating a Dornier 328 turboprop increased efficiency and recognized significant cost savings throughout the term of operation. Flying 8 legs a day, most of them were at capacity while saving BellSouth significant dollars and its employees over 90 min in drive time each way.

Short takeoff and landing (STOL) is another appealing feature that allows individuals and companies access to remote locations not otherwise accessible by larger jets or even cars (such as islands and bush runways). With this capability available in many currently produced and upcoming turboprops, customers will be able to extend their reach further into markets that were less accessible in the past.

Traditionally, turboprops were never viewed in the same sleek light as their jet-powered counterparts. However, new developments in technology, performance, comfort, mission capability and—most importantly—efficiency have taken turboprop aircraft to the forefront of desirability for many businesses looking to expand their scope of operations.

ATR 42/72 series

Due online in 2012, the new ATR72-600 promises reduced maintenance costs and increased payload capability.

Widely known throughout the cargo and regional airline industry, ATR (Avions de Transport Régional) continues to develop and improve its ATR 42 and 72 series turboprops.
ATR 42-500 is the latest development in ATR's 50-passenger line.

A complete redesign of earlier models, the 42-500's performance is dramatically improved for hot-and-high conditions as well as better cruise characteristics and speeds at altitude (300 kts @ 17,000 ft). ATR 72-500—the largest model that ATR currently produces and itself a complete redesign of earlier models—is capable of carrying 74 passengers and higher maximum payloads.

Pilots of both aircraft enjoy improved engine power management while passengers enjoy what ATR describes as the lowest seat-mile costs in its class. Newly outfitted interiors in both ATR 42 and 72 feature wider floors, aisles and seats, which improve the overall passenger experience. In addition, ATR has developed and installed improved cabin insulation to quell vibration and interior cabin noise.

Also contributing to cabin noise reduction and improved performance is the new 6-bladed Ham­ilton Standard 568F propeller, which ATR says is "specially optimized for low cabin noise in climb and cruise and low vibration."

ATR is currently developing and manufacturing the 600 series for deliveries beginning in 2012. Features that will press this aircraft family into future success in service include reduced maintenance costs, increased maximum payload and a newly redesigned cabin. ATR has a solid position in the large-cabin turboprop market and holds numerous orders from air carriers.

Comparative ranges of in-production turboprop aircraft fully loaded or in ferry configuration.

Cessna Caravan

With its redesigned interior, Caravan operators will find a new balance between comfort and utility.

Caravan 675 is the current, more fuel-efficient, version of the Cessna 208 whose classic lines and features that has made it so popular. With a 254 cu ft cabin and 860-lb full fuel payload, Caravan also comes in numerous configurations (from amphibious to pure cargo setups) to meet clients' specific missions.

Performance data indicates only slight variations on cruise speeds, range and MTOW across the different model offerings. However, the most noticeable difference is the reduction of full fuel payload due to the amphibious floats. Outside of that difference with regard to performance, the biggest difference that a customer will see is what's inside.

Designed for mission versatility, the interior cabin highlights wide, squared walls and a flat floor, making the Caravan ideal for executive transport, surveillance and patrol, as well as air ambulance functions. Cessna touts an overall 99.8% dispatch reliability rate for this line of aircraft.


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