Textron Aviation’s SkyCourier Takes First Flight

A SkyCourier prototype takes off from Beech Field Airport in Wichita on May 17.
Credit: Textron Aviation

WICHITA—Textron Aviation’s Model 408 SkyCourier twin utility turboprop prototype made its first flight on May 17 here, where it flew for 2 hr. and 15 min. and kicked off the flight-test program as development moves toward certification and entry-into-service. 

During the flight, the team tested the aircraft’s performance, stability and control and its propulsion, environmental, flight controls and avionics systems. 

The flight departed Textron Aviation’s Beech Field Airport in east Wichita and was flown by Corey Eckhart, senior test pilot, and Aaron Tobias, chief test pilot. 

 “We were very pleased with how the Cessna SkyCourier performed throughout its first flight,” Eckhart said. “It was particularly impressive to see how stable the aircraft handled on takeoff and landing. The Cessna SkyCourier already displays a high level of maturity in its flight characteristics, especially for a first flight. We were able to accomplish everything we wanted on this flight, and that’s an excellent start to the flight-test program.” 

Besides the prototype aircraft, the program includes five additional flight and ground test articles. 

“Today was an exciting day for our employees, our suppliers and our customers,” said Ron Draper, Textron Aviation president and CEO. “The Cessna SkyCourier performed exactly as we expected, which is a testament to the entire team of men and women who worked together to prepare for this day.”

The team persevered through the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and remained focused, Draper said. 

Textron Aviation launched the program on Nov. 28, 2017, and said at the time it expected first deliveries in 2020.  It is not saying when it now expects certification and first deliveries to commence.

"In light of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic and its impact to not only Textron Aviation, but many of its suppliers and regulatory agencies around the world, the company will not speculate on the development timeline," the company said in a statement. 

It was designed to meet the requirements of FedEx, its launch customer, with room to hold three LD3 containers. FedEx placed a firm order for 50 aircraft with an option for 50 more. It can also be configured as a passenger aircraft with 19 seats or a mixed passenger and freight combination. 

The aircraft is powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65SC engines and includes Garmin G1000 NXi avionics. It offers a maximum cruise speed of up to 200 kt. and a maximum range of 900 nm. 

Editor's Note: The story has been updated to include the statement on the development timeline. 

Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.


1 Comment
Nice and modern machine indeed, seems that some layout inspiration came (for better or worse) from the venerable Antonov An-28/Short Skyvan, but the T-tail puzzles me - generally an unnecessary maintenance and preflight check nuisance, unless strongly demanded by aerodynamic considerations. Good luck, Cessna.