Textron’s Beechcraft Denali Completes First Flight

Textron Aviation’s Beechcraft Denali on final approach to land at Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower Airport.
Credit: Wichita Aircraft Spotter

WICHITA—Textron Aviation’s new single-engine turboprop Beechcraft Denali, previously called the Cessna Denali, completed its first flight on the morning of Nov. 23, which begins the program’s flight test stage.

Certification is planned for 2023. 

The 2-hr. 50-min. flight by the Denali prototype aircraft, which took it to a test site over Cheney Lake west of Wichita, was accompanied by a Cessna Citation chase aircraft. The flight departed Textron Aviation’s west campus at Eisenhower International Airport at about 8:20 a.m. piloted by Peter Gracey, senior test pilot, and Dustin Smisor, chief test pilot. 

The flight was flawless from beginning to end, Gracey says. “It’s just a great aircraft to fly,” he says. “The Catalyst engine was outstanding, and the aircraft performed to the levels we were anticipating. First flights can’t go more smoothly than this.” 

During the flight, the team tested the aircraft’s performance, stability and control and its propulsion, environmental, flight controls and avionics systems, Textron Aviation says. The aircraft reached an altitude of 15,600 ft. and attained speeds of 180 kt. 

The prototype aircraft, two additional flight test articles and three full airframe ground test articles will be used to test aircraft systems, engine, avionics and overall performance. 

“Today’s landmark flight is not only a significant occasion for the Denali, it’s a truly great moment for our employees, our suppliers and the customers who will be flying this aircraft,” says Ron Draper, Textron Aviation president and CEO. “With its more environmentally friendly engine and largest cabin in its class, this is an aircraft that will change the landscape for high-performance, single-engine aircraft. Today’s flight is just the beginning for what we anticipate will be a long list of important accomplishments as we prepare the aircraft for certification and customer deliveries.”

The six-passenger aircraft is powered by the new clean-sheet GE Aviation Catalyst 1,300 shp-rated engine. It features a dual-channel FADEC and propeller control and burns up to 20% less fuel than older turboprop engines, the company says.  

The Denali was designed to reach a maximum cruise speed of 285 kt., have a full fuel payload of 1,100 lb., a four-passenger range with one pilot of 1,600 nm and a maximum cruising altitude of 31,000 ft. 

The aircraft is equipped with McCauley’s new 105-in.-dia. composite, five-blade propeller, Garmin 3000 avionics and an integrated Garmin autothrottle. It can be equipped for six passengers with individual reclining seats or for nine with a high-density seating option. 

Textron Aviation announced the aircraft in 2015 and GE announced the Catalyst engine. Flight testing was to have begun in 2018 with certification in 2019, but delays in the engine’s testing program moved back the program’s schedule.

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.