Rise of the Single Engine Turboprop

by Clint White

Will New Models and Innovation Stop the Sales Slide?

Owner and operators of airplanes are always weighing speed and payload versus cost, especially in the post recession world. For a fairly long time, if you wanted a fast airplane you had to sacrifice the amount you could carry. A good example would be during the “Baby Jet” era before the recession. Aircraft like the Eclipse and Citation Mustang were supposed to be the new “thing” in aviation, but while very good airplanes, high by-in costs and limited payload and range made potential owners look for other options.

On the other end, the person who was looking for a plane that could carry “a lot” could choose a turboprop like the Caravan or Kodiak, but they aren't the fastest things in the sky. A 800 mile trip might take 5 hours or more and that's without refueling. Fortunately, Pilatus had long since had its answer in the PC-12 and more recently the PC-12NG offering speeds nearly twice that of the Caravan and Kodiak with ample passenger and cargo payload, plus higher operating altitudes and the comfort of pressurization.

Cessna has now recognized the potential of the turboprop single market and had decided to fill that niche with the new Denali. While still a mock-up at this point, it offers nearly identical speed, range and cargo capacity to the Pilatus. These aircraft also sport some new features which owners and pilots will enjoy…

-The PC12NG since 2008 has had the Apex avionics system which is similar to the Falcons in some ways, Cessna has countered with the state of the art G3000 systems which like the G1000 is finding its way on more and more airplanes. Pilots may find it easier to use the G3000 if they originally had Garmin experience, but both airplanes now have the full suite of TCAS, EVS and of of course ADB when available. Single pilot operation in either aircraft should be breeze.

-Both airplane use the every popular PT-6. This engine now over 4 decades old has proven it's safety and reliability on countless airplanes and of course as a turboprop is burns less fuel than the jets. Also, as any turboprop pilot or owner knows there are no shortage of shops that can work on the PT-6 for maintenance. Both airplane have or will offer a composite prop for weight savings.

-On the owner side, operating costs are expected to be MUCH LOWER than those for jets.

Variable operating costs are said to be in the $620 per hour range. Interiors will be offered in utilitarian and executive configurations with options like USB ports, WiFi and other amenities. Both airplanes also offer the ability to land on shorter runways (not Caravan or Kodiak short) but still able to get into a majority airports.