Wither the new turboprop market, or the pause that refreshes? Historically, new business turboprop sales remain relatively steady while jet sales gyrate up or down. So far, this year is a little different. While new business jet deliveries have climbed more than 12 percent for the first six months of 2019, turboprop deliveries dropped 11.2 percent for 1H 2019 compared to the year-ago period, according to data from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). It is notable that a big chunk of jet sale gains were models that challenge traditional turboprop territory, such as the new Cirrus SF50 single-engine jet or the revised HondaJet Elite light twin.
Amid the decline in turboprop deliveries, certain turboprop models are faring even worse. Piper delivered just 14 turboprop singles in this year’s first half compared with 23 in the year-ago period, while Textron Aviation pushed almost 50 percent fewer King Air 350s—it’s top turboprop model—out the door compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, the used turboprop market is essentially flat from the year-ago period, with just a three-aircraft gain to available inventory and days on market inching up by two, to a little more than 10 months. Residual values for popular models, such as the Pilatus PC-12, remain strong.
Long-term, the market’s confidence in turboprops appears unshaken. Textron Aviation is proceeding apace with development of two new models, the Denali single and the SkyCourier twin. Epic Aircraft plans to bring its long-awaited E1000 certified single to market by year-end. Daher, maker of the TBM series of turboprop singles, purchased fellow turboprop airframer Quest over the summer. And one of the largest twin-turboprop fleet operators, membership service provider Wheels Up, attracted $128 million in new investor financing in August, pushing that company’s valuation to more than $1.1 billion.
There also is no shortage of takers for turboprop modification and upgrade programs—from engines and propellers to avionics. Blackhawk Modifications, a provider of turboprop engine upgrades, announced a major facilities expansion earlier this year as well as FAA STC approval for its $1.8 million King Air 300 re-engine program. And there are plenty of avionics upgrade programs for legacy turboprops. Earlier this year, Stevens Aviation completed the first installation of a BendixKing AeroVue integrated flight deck on one of the most ubiquitous King Air models—the B200. Numerous other avionics upgrades from manufacturers including Garmin, Collins, and Honeywell are available for a wide variety of turboprop models.
Development of new engine and flight-control technology for turboprops also appears unfazed. GE Aviation continues development of its new high-efficiency Catalyst turboprop engine, while single-lever power control, first offered as an aftermarket option, is slowly moving to become the new cockpit standard in the category, now offered in the Nextant G90XT King Air remanufacture, on new Daher TBM940 singles, and in development for several other new-production models.
These new technologies will add efficiencies, ease of operation, and increase safety margins in aircraft and undoubtedly increase their market appeal.
TEXTRON AVIATION CESSNA 408 SKYCOURIER
Price: $5.5 million
Range: 900 nm
Textron Aviation’s new unpressurized Cessna turboprop twin can be configured for up to 19 passengers or all-cargo operations. The aircraft was unveiled in late 2017, and Textron has visions of the high wing, all-aluminum aircraft becoming its highest volume twin turboprop. FedEx has already inked a 100-aircraft commitment (orders and options).
The SkyCourier features a pair of 1,100-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65SC engines, Garmin G1000 avionics, fixed landing gear, and an 87-inch cargo door that can swallow LD3 shipping containers. Textron unveiled a full-size passenger cabin mockup of the aircraft last year. The no-frills cabin is almost a perfect 70-inch square with a rubberized floor, small overhead bins, and a netted rear cabin area for passenger luggage. The aircraft can climb to 25,000 feet with supplemental pilot/passenger oxygen and has a relatively slow top speed of 200 knots.
A prototype aircraft could fly later this year and Textron expects FAA certification in 2020.
PT DIRGANTARA INDONESIA (PTDI) N219
Price: $6 million
Range: 480 nm (19 passengers)
A 19-seat twin-engine STOL turboprop developed from the CASA 212, the aircraft first flew in 2017. Two prototypes are currently in flight test. The N219 has a cruise speed of 190 knots, a stall speed of 59 knots, and features a large rear cargo door for multi-mission operations. It uses the Garmin G1000 glass panel avionics system and is powered by two 850-shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-42 engines driving Hartzell four-blade propellers.
Through August, PTDI claimed 257 orders for the aircraft—more than 150 from export customers—and said that assembly of the first four production aircraft was underway. The company hopes for Indonesian certification in 2020 and for customer deliveries to begin in 2021. PTDI said it intends to ramp production up to 36 aircraft per year and is exploring an amphibious variant. It is in the process of raising more than $100 million to fund a full-production facility.
DORNIER SEAWINGS SEASTAR CD2
Price: $7.21 million
Range: 900 nm
The German-Chinese joint venture developing the aircraft announced last year that it had raised an additional $166 million to finance the rebirth of this all-composite, push-pull, twin-engine amphibian. The funds will be used to complete the revised Seastar’s certification and build a second production line in China. Seawings also unveiled a parapublic variant of the aircraft called the “Orca” designed for maritime patrol, search and rescue, and medevac missions. Seawings said the first Orca will be ready for customers in 2022.
The first new-generation civil variant of the Seastar was rolled out in August 2017. It features an all-digital cockpit with Honeywell Primus Epic 2.0 avionics suite and four 10-inch LCD displays with advanced vision, communication, navigation, surveillance, and air traffic management systems. The aircraft is certified for single-pilot IFR. Other new items include a stern hydro thruster for improved water maneuvering, new corrosion-resistant landing gear with nosewheel steering, a revised 12 passenger cabin layout with air conditioning, and new propellers. First flight is scheduled for this year.
The Seastar made its first flight in 1984 and was initially certified in 1991; however, the effort to put the aircraft into serial production subsequently failed due to chronic undercapitalization. In 2014, Dornier partnered with two state-owned Chinese companies (Wuxi Industrial Development Group and the Wuxi Communications Industry Group Co., Ltd.) to bring the aircraft to market, announcing plans to assemble the amphibian in Germany and China. Last year Dornier Seawings China began construction of a purpose-built aircraft assembly plant in Yixing. In 2017, Dornier Seawings announced an agreement with Canada’s Diamond Aircraft Industries to have that company build Seastar airframes under contract.
The Seastar is powered by two in-line Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-135 engines, has a maximum cruise speed of 180 knots, a 900-nm range, a service ceiling of 15,000 feet, and a maximum demonstrated sea state of two feet. The Seastar was designed in the 1980s and was FAA certified under Part 23 in the early 1990s at a cost of almost $150 million. A decade ago, the company said it held letters of intent (LOI) for more than 25 Seastars.
See ALL of the new Business Turboprops over at AIN Online.