Turboprops continue to meet utility needs worldwide
Advantages include significantly less fuel burn, shorter runway needs, efficiency at lower altitudes, longer TBOs.
Cessna's Grand Caravan is available in a wide range of utility configurations, and with the Oasis interior installed it becomes an executive transport.
"The Caravan defines utility," says Doug Oliver, dir of corporate communications for Cessna. "It operates as a cargo hauler, regional airliner, medevac, special missions platform for police and military and, with the Oasis interior installed, it operates as business aircraft."
Cessna says it is not planning any new turboprop product introductions in the near future, although rumors continue to circulate that a PT6-powered version of the Citation Mustang is in the offing.
Oliver says Cessna believes the turboprop segment will continue to prosper due to operating economics and enhanced performance.
Quest Kodiak, seen here on optional floats, was designed to meet the needs of mission and humanitarian organizations.
The Quest Kodiak is a high-wing strut-braced unpressurized utility aircraft that was designed to meet the requirements of remote mission and humanitarian aviation organizations. Designed to operate from 1000-ft backcountry strips, it will cruise at 172 kts at 12,000 ft and has a range of more than 1100 nm.
The Kodiak uses the -34 version of the PT6A, developing 750 shp. Certification and first deliveries came in 2008. Garmin G1000 avionics are standard. Options include functional items such as oversized tires, heavy-duty interiors, passenger seats (up to 8), TKS ice protection, and Garmin synthetic vision, Stormscope and XM entertainment.
Quest says its customers choose the Kodiak for its durability and reliability, low operating costs and maintainability. The company cites a wide range of mission capabilities, including skydiving (for which an OEM-certified jump package is available), Part 135 operations needing an airplane with a flexible configuration, ice protection and a cargo pod, mission-type aviation, and government applications such as surveillance and search and rescue. The company reports 56 deliveries through 3Q2010.
From a distance the Pacific Aerospace PAC750 XSTOL, with its low-wing design, looks more like one of the personal business turboprops than a utility model. But a look on the New Zealand-based company's website reveals a far different picture—a fixed-gear unpressurized airplane designed to operate from an 800-ft runway and with a payload greater than its own empty weight.
The website shows a photo of a 750 XSTOL parked in the grass behind an elephant (!), and lists a number of truly remarkable attributes, including a CG range 24.5 inches wide (on an airframe measuring just over 36 ft from spinner to tailcone) and the ability to depart from a crude 1450-ft airstrip carved out of the jungle at Maimafu, Papua New Guinea (not listed in Ac-U-Kwik) located 5200 ft above sea level on a 30°C day.
It's also the only aircraft in this listing that advertises cropdusting among its special-mission capabilities.
One might expect the PAC750 XSTOL to achieve its remarkable short-field capability with a huge engine, but it doesn't. A -34 version of the PT6A, developing 750 shp, powers the 750 XSTOL—not a lot of power for a 7500-lb MTOW. The airplane was developed originally for the skydiving community around a requirement to take 17 jumpers to altitude and return in about 15 min. The PAC750 XSTOL received FAA certification in 2004 and has been delivered at a rate of 10–15 units annually ever since.
A future prospect
Kestrel is a single-engine turboprop now in development. Shown here is the nonconforming proof-of-concept vehicle.
At least one new corporate-style turboprop is in development—the Kestrel, a pressurized single-engine design from Kestrel Aircraft of Brunswick Landing ME. The company has taken space in facilities at the former Brunswick NAS.
Alan Klapmeier, who founded Cirrus Aircraft and was its chairman until 2009, is Kestrel's president and CEO. He envisions a different market for his new airplane than that occupied by today's crop of business turboprops.
Instead of focusing on short stage lengths, Klapmeier says the Kestrel is intended for the owner/operator needing a fast long-range airplane that will cruise at 325 kts or more and can carry a load of passengers from a 2500-ft runway on a trip longer than 1000 nm.
He foresees secondary markets as a 2nd or 3rd aircraft to augment corporate flight departments, an inexpensive long-range aircraft for Part 135 operators, and a vehicle for high-priority package delivery or aeromedical applications.
Kestrel is flying a nonconforming proof-of-concept (POC) aircraft, but the design is still evolving. The airplane will be constructed primarily of composites and advanced materials. The POC is flying with a PT6A but Klapmeier says the final design could use a Honeywell TPE331. He says first deliveries could come in about 3 years.
Mike Potts is an aviation consultant and freelance writer. He worked in corporate communications for Beech and Raytheon Aircraft between 1979 and 1997.