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Cessna 408 SkyCourier

Hood

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Textron has revealed and launched the Cessna 408 SkyCourier with a $550 million order from FedEx secured for 100.
The Cessna 408 similar in size to the former Beech 1900 but is aimed at the low-end cargo market (can carry 3x LD3 containers) with passenger variants only aimed at the emerging markets. It's designed to be a rugged and simple aircraft. I think it will probably face pretty stiff competition but it might carve out a small niche and could be successful in the long-term.

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/textron-launches-beech-1900-sized-skycourier-with-fe-443667/
 

LowObservable

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That may possibly be the most boring airplane design in history.
 

AeroFranz

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I would be hard pressed to recognize it in a line up with another 6 similar airplanes already flying. which brings the question: how is this better than what's out there? it even has 'old' PT6s, so where do you claim improved efficiencies?
 

cluttonfred

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The 408 model number is clearly a riff on the 208 Caravan, also with fixed gear and with one PT6 instead of two, which is ubiquitous in developed and developing countries for both passenger and cargo use. Think DHC Otter/Twin Otter.

With FedEx footing the bill for development by agreeing to buy 50 aircraft up front and up to 100 total, this is an opportunity to introduce a brand new, rugged, simple, glass cockpit aircraft into a market largely dominated by aging, maintenance-intensive, repurposed light commuter aircraft.

Cessna has also sold quite a few military Caravans as light transports and ISR platforms (some of those even armed), and this relatively inexpensive twin ("100 aircraft worth $550 million at list price" = $5.5 million each) could be very interesting for relatively low-cost military applications (ISR, maritime, etc.) as well.

I could even see a version optimized for rough-field operation as a low-cost light assault transport with that big cargo door.

http://cessna.txtav.com/en/turboprop/skycourier
 

LowObservable

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Anyway, why the T-tail? Except to make it look a bit different.
 

TomS

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LowObservable said:
Anyway, why the T-tail? Except to make it look a bit different.

Maybe improved clearance for driving up to the plane with LD3 containers? Instead of coming in from the side, you can also approach from the rear of the aircraft.
 

AeroFranz

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cluttonfred said:
The 408 model number is clearly a riff on the 208 Caravan, also with fixed gear and with one PT6 instead of two, which is ubiquitous in developed and developing countries for both passenger and cargo use. Think DHC Otter/Twin Otter.

With FedEx footing the bill for development by agreeing to buy 50 aircraft up front and up to 100 total, this is an opportunity to introduce a brand new, rugged, simple, glass cockpit aircraft into a market largely dominated by aging, maintenance-intensive, repurposed light commuter aircraft.

Cessna has also sold quite a few military Caravans as light transports and ISR platforms (some of those even armed), and this relatively inexpensive twin ("100 aircraft worth $550 million at list price" = $5.5 million each) could be very interesting for relatively low-cost military applications (ISR, maritime, etc.) as well.

I could even see a version optimized for rough-field operation as a low-cost light assault transport with that big cargo door.

http://cessna.txtav.com/en/turboprop/skycourier

all points well taken - but what's the business proposition that makes building/designing/certifying a new aircraft viable when you have other things out there, not much worse, that have long since amortized the NRE costs? IMHO, i don't see what you mentioned offset these costs, unless it also has better "lb of payload * nm / $ " - like 20% better.

speaking of similar airplanes out there - The PZL M28 may be a tad bigger, but it's got a couple of PT6s, a cargo ramp, modern avionics, and it's even "American" (owned by Sikorsky).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PZL_M28_Skytruck

Now, if you were to tell me that this vehicle, that is likely to stay in production for the next 30+ years, was designed from the start to be easily convertible to optionally piloted, then you have a strong differentiator. That'd be one way for FedEx to cut costs.
BTW, under the DARPA ALIAS program, Caravans have been converted to OPA, but it's much easier if you bake the capability in.
 

TomS

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For FedEx, the requirement seems to center around carrying three LD-3 containers. An M-28 Skytruck can't do that -- it's too short. In a quick look around I don't see anything in this class designed around container freight, which is what FedEx needs to streamline ops.

This isn't the first time FedEx has flirted with a purpose-built feeder cargo aircraft. I think they looked at it in the 1990s but I'd have to dig out the details. The economics didn't work then but it looks like increased volume might make it work now.
 

Silencer1

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And Atlas Aerospace Liftmaster ;)

https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,29760.msg319613.html#msg319613
 

cluttonfred

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I doubt very much that optionally-piloted operation is a consideration for the 408's development, rather it is jumping at the opportunity presented by FedEx's willingness to commit to 50+ aircraft to cover the development cost of a modern "Twin Caravan" to complement the existing success with the 208, likely using the same sales and parts distribution network.

I worked in East Africa for a few years and spent some time in Cessna 208s operated by public safety and safari operators and even a scheduled (but single pilot, I got to sit up front) short-hop shuttle flight from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar. If just half of those back-country and small-scale operators who already have a few 208s decide to add one 408 for the busier routes and/or larger cargo runs, then it will be a great success.

FWIW, Cessna has built over 2,500 208s of all variants since 1982, that's over 70 aircraft per year at a current going rate (2017 208B Grand Caravan) of over $2.5 million.
 

TomcatViP

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Don't forget Cessna brand. It's quality design with attention paid to the little things that make profitability easier (aero, certification etc...).
 

AeroFranz

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cluttonfred said:
I doubt very much that optionally-piloted operation is a consideration for the 408's development, rather it is jumping at the opportunity presented by FedEx's willingness to commit to 50+ aircraft to cover the development cost of a modern "Twin Caravan" to complement the existing success with the 208, likely using the same sales and parts distribution network.

I worked in East Africa for a few years and spent some time in Cessna 208s operated by public safety and safari operators and even a scheduled (but single pilot, I got to sit up front) short-hop shuttle flight from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar. If just half of those back-country and small-scale operators who already have a few 208s decide to add one 408 for the busier routes and/or larger cargo runs, then it will be a great success.

FWIW, Cessna has built over 2,500 208s of all variants since 1982, that's over 70 aircraft per year at a current going rate (2017 208B Grand Caravan) of over $2.5 million.

Thanks for the first hand account, CF. That is certainly a relevant data point.
Time will tell. The industry is so risk-averse that nobody in their right mind would start a program unless there was a clear business case. I doubt the Cessna BD people have drunk their own Kool-aid. But i do think there must be something else buoying their sales hopes, i still don't see how tossing another non-differentiated aircraft in the crowded mix equates big market shares.
 

elmayerle

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Apparently non-differentiated because form follows function? I note that they are going with currently common technology that's readily dealt with in the field rather than new technology that needs specialized attention. I could see that later versions could have different engines and propellers but it sounds reasonable to go with simple and familiar to begin with.
 

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AeroFranz said:
cluttonfred said:
I doubt very much that optionally-piloted operation is a consideration for the 408's development, rather it is jumping at the opportunity presented by FedEx's willingness to commit to 50+ aircraft to cover the development cost of a modern "Twin Caravan" to complement the existing success with the 208, likely using the same sales and parts distribution network.

I worked in East Africa for a few years and spent some time in Cessna 208s operated by public safety and safari operators and even a scheduled (but single pilot, I got to sit up front) short-hop shuttle flight from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar. If just half of those back-country and small-scale operators who already have a few 208s decide to add one 408 for the busier routes and/or larger cargo runs, then it will be a great success.

FWIW, Cessna has built over 2,500 208s of all variants since 1982, that's over 70 aircraft per year at a current going rate (2017 208B Grand Caravan) of over $2.5 million.

Thanks for the first hand account, CF. That is certainly a relevant data point.
Time will tell. The industry is so risk-averse that nobody in their right mind would start a program unless there was a clear business case. I doubt the Cessna BD people have drunk their own Kool-aid. But i do think there must be something else buoying their sales hopes, i still don't see how tossing another non-differentiated aircraft in the crowded mix equates big market shares.

I have long been critical of the conservancy of Textron. However in the last couple of years they have certainly turned around. Scorpion, aggressive AT-6 effort, Bell 525, 505, V-280 (very aggressive), their concept rotorcraft earlier this year, and now SkyCourier. Recently a Bell VP was lauded for saying something akin to "adapt or die". Closer to my lane, the U.S. Army is still without a Sherpa replacement. Perhaps trade in some C-12 for rough field capability...
 

Apophenia

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TomcatViP said:
Don't forget Cessna brand. It's quality design with attention paid to the little things that make profitability easier (aero, certification etc...).

Yes, and their extensive sales and support system. One puzzle: if this is basically a 'Twin Caravan', why the big increase in power? The specs for the SkyCourier look good up against Viking's DHC-6-400 Twin Otter ... but I'm unclear on why Textron/Cessna needed double the Twotter's power output?
 

cluttonfred

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Probably not a candidate to replace the new AC-130J Ghostrider, but with a good ISR package, an assortment of lightweight smart munitions, and maybe a GAU-19A .50 cal Gatling gun shooting out the door, it would make a low-cost platform for the same sorts of missions. Hmmmm.... ;-)
 

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I'm curious if this is a sale to FedEx or to one of its feeder contractors. Most, if not all, of FedEx's turboprop aircraft are actually owned by contracted cargo carriers such as Mountain Air Cargo, Morningstar, ASL, etc.
 

yasotay

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Apophenia said:
TomcatViP said:
Don't forget Cessna brand. It's quality design with attention paid to the little things that make profitability easier (aero, certification etc...).

Yes, and their extensive sales and support system. One puzzle: if this is basically a 'Twin Caravan', why the big increase in power? The specs for the SkyCourier look good up against Viking's DHC-6-400 Twin Otter ... but I'm unclear on why Textron/Cessna needed double the Twotter's power output?

6K/95F
 

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...
 

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Silencer1

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Those LD3 are so huge, and requires a large door to loading/unloading.
Perhaps, this would be one of the design' challenges of this aircraft?
As well as internal system for locking the containers in their positions and safety issues.

I generally like this aircraft. Who could garanty the success of Caravan - and now it's one his kind, with lot of versions.
Hope, Cessna will be succesfull in anotther part of market.
 

TomS

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Dynoman said:
I'm curious if this is a sale to FedEx or to one of its feeder contractors. Most, if not all, of FedEx's turboprop aircraft are actually owned by contracted cargo carriers such as Mountain Air Cargo, Morningstar, ASL, etc.

The feeder airlines mostly dry lease the planes from FedEx and then operate them exclusively on behalf of FedEx. Or so says the FedEx press release, anyway.

http://about.van.fedex.com/newsroom/fedex-express-introduces-new-feeder-aircraft/
 

Dynoman

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Thank you TomS! I wondered how they were able to afford such aircraft for (often cash-strapped) small cargo carriers.
 

marauder2048

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cluttonfred said:
Probably not a candidate to replace the new AC-130J Ghostrider, but with a good ISR package, an assortment of lightweight smart munitions, and maybe a GAU-19A .50 cal Gatling gun shooting out the door, it would make a low-cost platform for the same sorts of missions. Hmmmm.... ;-)

I was thinking more along the lines of the AC-208.
 

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CJGibson

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I'm surprised nobody has described this as a Dakota-replacement-replacement. Or should that be Dakota-replacement-replacement-replacement.

Chris
 

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Does anyone else think it will need a tail prop like an Il-62, to stop it doing a sit-up-and-beg with one container in the aft position?
 

cluttonfred

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The cargo door appears to be as far forward as possible to minimize the possibility of tipping, but it still might be necessary assuming a 2,000 lb max load per container for a 6,000 max total cargo load. Given that the primary customer is FedEx and they are all about speed, I suspect that the would do everything possible to keep the loading/unloading process simple, but a precautionary tail stand certainly seems likely.
 

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Silencer1

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Thanks, cluttonfred for posting the door image!

Even if the containers would be half loaded their size remains unchanged, that requires to organize a large hole in the fuselage side.
There were a number of cargo aircraft (mainly, airliners converted to freighters) where this task successfully solved, although for relatively small fuselage of Cessna 408, IMHO, it would be a serious issue.

I don't think, that any possible military usage of this aircraft would be successful, at least until it prove itself as a good freighter/passenger aircraft. Cessna for decades trying to present Caravan as military type, and succeed only few years ago.

Comparisons of Model 408 and DC-3 sounds good to myself :cool:
 

LowObservable

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If I was designing for that mission I'd make it a twin-boom, at least, with a neat clamshell door at the back.

As it is, you have a hole in the side to take the long axis of an LD-3. Containers or pallets have to move in two dimensions, so you either have a complex powered roller system or a lot of manual handling. The floor is too high for a container dolly/trailer (a factor of rotation clearance) so you either need a mini-scissors or some kind of special ground transfer system.
 

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LD3 cargo container configuration.
 

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Dynoman

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LD3 dimensions
 

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TomS

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LowObservable said:
If I was designing for that mission I'd make it a twin-boom, at least, with a neat clamshell door at the back.

As it is, you have a hole in the side to take the long axis of an LD-3. Containers or pallets have to move in two dimensions, so you either have a complex powered roller system or a lot of manual handling. The floor is too high for a container dolly/trailer (a factor of rotation clearance) so you either need a mini-scissors or some kind of special ground transfer system.

FedEx also has (and has just ordered more) a bunch of ATR freighters that also load containers via a side door. They have small scissor lifts to load them. It's not a huge stretch to expect the same infrastructure to support the 408. Containerization will speed up the loading process so much compared to bulk loading (individual parcel handling) that they seem to think the hardware is worth it. Compared to funding a clean-sheet airplane, it's a near-trivial expense.
 

LowObservable

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I don't think the ATR is going to have a tail-sitting problem. Just a hunch, you know.

And FedEx is funding a clean-sheet airplane. If Textron has convinced them that they are not ("Twin Caravan") there will be tears before bedtime.

I suspect that what has happened here is that Textron is the default supplier not because they can create an elegant solution to the requirement, but because they know how to establish a production line for a cheap, simple airframe.
 

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AeroFranz

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I suspect the smaller the fuselage diameter, the bigger the door integration becomes an issue for a fixed size opening.
Nothing you can't manage, it's just that the longerons probably become much beefier because fully one third of the fuselage circumference is not load bearing in correspondence of the door-sized hole.
 

TomS

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LowObservable said:
I don't think the ATR is going to have a tail-sitting problem. Just a hunch, you know.

I wasn't talking about the potential CG issues, which aren't mentioned in the post I was responding to. I don't know how they plan to address that, except that I imagine FedEx containers would tend to be fairly low density, so it might not be a huge problem.

FWIW, the original article notes that the door and cargo handling system are among the few notably advanced features of the aircraft, so I don't rule out that they have a clever solution to moving containers into the aircraft.
 

LowObservable

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FedEx used to be low-density stuff, but as shipping costs overall decline, I doubt that it's as true as it used to be.
 

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The Cessna 408 has an 87 inch x 69 inch cargo door. The cargo container is 79 inches x 60.4 inches. In the configuration shown the the container has to be rotated along its normal axis into the hold and then slid forward. A curved track system is a likely means of moving them in and out of the aircraft and onto a mobile lift.
 
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