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Cessna's New Contender Takes On Venerable Pilatus PC-12 [复制链接]

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发表于 2017-8-8 19:13:17 |显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 XLC 于 2017-8-8 19:15 编辑

Cessna wants a piece of the action

Of Switzerland’s four official languages, the one that dominates in Stans, an alpine town near Mount Pilatus, is Swiss-German. So it is quite likely that variations of the words uberrascht (surprised), geschmeichelt (flattered) and maybe a few less wholesome were uttered frequently in Stans cafes and kitchens in 2016 after Textron Aviation announced the Cessna Denali.

You see, it was the good folk of Stans who nearly 25 years ago created the PC-12 (see photo, below), an aircraft unlike any other—a typical move by Pilatus Aircraft Ltd.


Powered by a single 1,200-shp Pratt & Whitney PT-6A turboprop, it featured a plush, pressurized, stand-up cabin typically accommodating six passengers, plus the two seats up front, an enclosed lavatory and, distinctively, a large cargo door aft. Made with Swiss precision, the aircraft was certified to 30,000 ft. and, thanks to its sturdy landing gear, could operate from unimproved strips.


Credit: Pilatus Aircraft


No one had ever seen its like, and many liked what they saw. First delivered in 1994, the PC-12 has since been in continuous production in Stans with an output of 60-100 aircraft annually, incorporating many upgrades over the years. Adapted to a variety of missions, PC-12s serve as air ambulances, cargo carriers, executive transports and even as special ops platforms.


In June, the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia, one of the original PC-12 customers, took delivery of the 1,500th, adding to its fleet of 33.


The singular success of the PC-12 program obviously drew the attention of Textron Aviation’s Cessna Aircraft leadership, which in 2015 green-lighted development of a clean-sheet, single-engine turboprop. The Wichita planemaker has had a storied history with the type; its unpressurized CE-208 Caravan is a popular workhorse in the package delivery and utility charter business, with hundreds in service.


But when the company unveiled the all-new-design Denali (see concept below) at the Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture in 2016, many were taken aback. Also pressurized, it looked like a clone of the PC-12, complete with T-tail, vestigial winglets and, notably, a large aft cargo door. In terms of measurements, the two aircraft differ by inches at most.


Appearances aside, there are notable differences between the two aircraft. First and foremost, Denali is powered by GE’s 1,240-shp Advanced Turboprop (ATP) engine, now in development, and features a full authority digital engine control, single-lever prop and power control and 4,000 hr. between overhauls.


Credit: Textron Aviation Concept


Meanwhile, the new design will have a Garmin G3000 touchscreen avionics suite that will include weather radar, a terrain awareness warning system and will be automatic-dependent surveillance-broadcast capable. It will have better pressurization differential and larger cabin windows as well.


Performance targets include a 285-kt. cruise, which is the same as the latest PC-12, tanks-full payload of 1,100 lb. versus PC-12’s 1,009 lb. and range of 1,600 nm—all essentially the same.


Speaking at this year’s recent AirVenture, Brad Thress, Cessna senior vice president of engineering, said manufacture of tooling and the first test-article aircraft was underway and that airframe design is nearly complete. He says Denali will boast more space, payload and better operating economics and pricing. It is marked at $4.8 million as compared to $4.92 million for a fully loaded Pilatus. The Cessna’s first flight is set to occur in 2018, and both the aircraft and ATP are targeted for certification in the fourth quarter of 2019.


That gives Pilatus two years or more to upgrade the PC-12 further, and it has indicated it will do so. During the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition last May, Oscar Schwenk, Pilatus chairman, told Aviation Week’s ShowNews that “we will have an answer ready when the Denali arrives,” but he offered no details.

And while acknowledging that Denali “will certainly earn some market share,” Tom Aniello, vice president of marketing at Pilatus Business Aircraft, went on to note: “We know we have to make enhancements to stay competitive, and we will.”


Thress says Textron has seen “very, very high customer interest” in Denali and is accepting letters of intent. However, none are likely to bear Brian Cleary’s signature.


A New England entrepreneur and well-satisfied PC-12 owner for the past 11 years, Cleary says the aircraft “really exceeded my expectations.” Moreover, the Pilatus holds market value better than most other aircraft. He says he’s been approached regarding the Denali, but isn’t interested because “it’s almost identical” to the PC-12. “It’s kind of surprising to me that they didn’t come up with something dramatically different,” he adds.


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