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Textron Cessna Caravan/Grand Caravan (208/208B)


The Cessna Caravan and Cessna Grand Caravan are single-engine turboprop airplanes produced by Wichita, Kansas-based Textron Aviation. Launched in 1981 by Cessna, two variants of the type have been certified, the first of which—Textron’s Model 208, which uses the Cessna Caravan commercial designation—made its first flight in December 1982 and received FAA approval on Oct. 23, 1984. Subsequently, the first Caravan was delivered on Feb. 25, 1985, to an Alaskan operator. Another early operator of the Caravan was FedEx—then known as Federal Express—which received its first airframe, a 208A, the day after the first delivery was made. FedEx’s first Caravan was Serial No. 20800007 and registered as N800FE, with the Memphis-based company taking delivery of a total of 308 airframes—Cargomaster and Super Cargomasters—that are operated by contractors on its behalf.

First certified by the FAA on Oct. 9, 1986—with subsequent updates approved by the agency on Dec. 13, 1989, and Dec. 21, 2012—the commercial designations of the Model 208B have included the Cessna Grand Caravan, Cessna Grand Caravan EX, Cessna Grand Caravan EX Amphibian and Super Cargomaster. In comparison to the Model 208, the changes made to Model 208B include the incorporation of a fuselage stretch. Following the initial certification of the Model 208B in October 1986, the first airframe was delivered in “early 1987.” Those early deliveries of the Model 208B were Super Cargomaster airframes configured to carry cargo, while the first delivery of a production Grand Caravan took place in 1990.

In 1998, Cessna started delivering Caravans equipped with the more-powerful PT6A-114A engine, ahead of Garmin’s G1000 avionics becoming standard in 2008. Airframes that incorporate the updates to the Model 208B that were certified in December 2012—Serial No. 208B2197, as well as those including and beyond Serial No. 208B5000—use the Cessna Grand Caravan EX and Grand Caravan EX Amphibian commercial designations, with the latter receiving approval in 2013. Deliveries of both the landplane and amphibious versions of the Grand Caravan EX began in 2013. The type certificate for both variants of the Model 208 is currently held by Textron Aviation of Wichita, a certificate that was previously held by Cessna Aircraft Co. until July 29, 2015.

Cabin Dimensions and Outfitting

Although dimensional differences exist between the Models 208 and 208B, the FAA has certified both to accommodate up to 11 seats. According to the FAA type certificate data sheet (TCDS) for both the 208 and 208B, seats 1 and 2 are “pilot seat locations,” while seats 3-11 are found only in passenger-configured airframes, according to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) TCDS. Despite the maximum certified capacity found in the FAA TCDS, the Caravan/Caravan Amphibian and Grand Caravan EX/Grand Caravan EX Amphibian are marketed by Textron as able to seat 10-14 occupants, differences that are explained by the fact while “most countries” limit capacity to 10 passengers, as many as 14 occupants are approved by certain authorities. EASA is one of the regulatory authorities that has approved a capacity greater than 11, with the Model 208B—regardless of the equipped engine—able to have up to 14 seats installed.

Caravan passengers are accommodated in a cabin that has a length of 17 ft. 4 in., width of 5 ft. 4 in. and height of 4 ft. 6 in. Textron promotes a number of configurations for the Caravan, including 8-, 10- and 11-seat commuter configurations, as well as 8- and 11-seat club configurations, with both of the 11-seat configurations accommodating three seats in the aft portion of the cabin. The company also states that the Caravan has a baggage capacity of 325 lb. and baggage volume of 31.5 ft.3, with the “base model” having a total volume for freight and passengers of 254 ft.3 That baggage volume can be supplemented by an optional cargo pod that adds 84 ft.3 of volume, while also increasing the maximum baggage capacity to 1,145 lb. Installation of that cargo pod on the Caravan has no impact on the airframe’s maximum takeoff weight (MTOW), but it does influence performance—specifically, the maximum climb rate, cruise speed and range—as well as the empty weight and useful load. Passengers board and deplane both the Caravan and Grand Caravan using airstairs located on the right side of the fuselage, while cargo can be loaded through a cargo door located on the aft left side of the airframe that has a height of 50 in. and a width of 49 in.

Although the current version of the 208B—marketed as the Cessna Grand Caravan EX and Grand Caravan EX Amphibian—retains the same cabin height and width as the Caravan, its cabin length is increased to 21 ft. 4 in. as a result of the Grand Caravan’s 4-ft. fuselage stretch (from 37 ft. 7 in. to 41 ft. 7 in.). According to Textron, the configurations available for the Grand Caravan EX include 10- and 13-seat club configurations—the former of which is described in Textron marketing materials as being a “double club” configuration—as well as 10-, 11-, 13- and 14-seat commuter layouts. The maximum baggage weight that can be carried on airframes not equipped with a cargo pod is 320 lb., a figure that is less than the comparable figure for current Caravan airframes that also lack a cargo pod. However, when the optional 111.5-ft.3 cargo pod is installed, the amount of baggage that the Grand Caravan EX can carry is increased to 1,410 lb. Comparatively, the Grand Caravan EX Amphibian has 100.1 ft.3 of baggage volume and is able to accommodate 920 lb. of baggage.

Avionics

Prior to April 2008, the avionics installed on Caravan airframes included Bendix King and Garmin hardware, while “newer models” incorporate Garmin’s G1000 integrated flight deck. The installation of G1000 avionics also included a dual-channel autopilot, GFC 700 automatic flight control system (AFCS) and wide area augmentation system (WAAS) GPS receiver, as well as three displays that measure 10 in. Those features were able to be supplemented by options such as a Class B terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS-B) and XM satellite radio and entertainment.

Currently manufactured Model 208 and 208B airframes include Garmin’s G1000NXi integrated flight deck that features three displays as standard: a pair of GDU 1050A primary flight displays (PFD) for the pilot and copilot, as well as a GDU 1050A multifunction display (MFD) located in between. Other standard components that are provided by Garmin include dual GDC 72 air data computers (ADC), GRS 79 attitude heading reference systems (AHRS) and GMA 1360D audio systems, as well as a single GEA 71 engine/airframe unit and GTX 335R transponder that is automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast (ADS-B) Out capable. The avionics company also provides its FliteCharts and SafeTaxi capabilities, in addition to its Flight Stream 510, a memory card that provides Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, and which that enables a number of capabilities including wireless updates to the avionics database. In addition to database updates, Flight Stream also allows the wireless transfer of flight plans from mobile devices, while enabling the “stream[ing]” of traffic and weather information to mobile devices. A non-Garmin piece of avionics hardware that is standard on the Caravan and Grand Caravan EX is BendixKing’s KN-63 distance-measuring equipment (DME).

Beyond those standard avionics features, avionics options available for the Caravan and Grand Caravan EX include a Honeywell’s KRA 405B radar altimeter that, according to Textron, provides pilots with the “absolute altitude from” 0-2,000 ft. above ground level. That hardware also allows pilots to select a “warning altitude,” and provides aural and visual warnings, the latter of which is displayed through a decision-height light on both PFD. Also available is a Class A terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS-A) that gives pilots aural and visual alerts regarding terrain, while also supporting “warning modes” that alert the pilot(s) to conditions such as descent below the glideslope, a rate of descent that is excessive and a loss of altitude following takeoff. In addition to supporting those warnings, the TAWS-A—which requires the installation of the KRA 405B radar altimeter—also “supports steep-approach functionality,” while a “graphical plan view of terrain” that is enhanced and “color coded” with respect to the airplane’s position is made possible through the utilization of GPS information and “a worldwide terrain database.” The safety of operations can be further increased through an optional enhanced AFCS that adds a number of capabilities to the G1000NXi’s standard AFCS, capabilities that include an “auto-level function,” autopilot activation that is automatic, the ability to conduct a coupled go-arounds, electronic stability and protection (ESP) and underspeed protection (USP) and envelope engagement that is “expanded.” Global availability of datalink weather services—in addition to satellite voice communications and text messaging—are made possible through an available Garmin GSR 56 Iridium transceiver and Iridium’s network of satellites. 

Mission and Performance

In addition to being utilized to carry freight for companies such as FedEx, the Caravan and Grand Caravan have also been utilized by operators in remote regions and for the carriage of passengers, including scheduled passenger service. Textron states that other missions which can be performed by these airframes include medical evacuation (medevac) and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), with the latter mission benefitting from the airplane’s stability and high-wing design.

Competitive Comparison: Cessna Caravan/Grand Caravan and Daher Kodiak 100

Cessna Caravan

Cessna Grand Caravan EX

Daher Kodiak 100

Maximum Certified Passenger Capacity

10

10/13

10

Range (nm)(Four Pax)

1,070

964

1,132

Takeoff Distance (ft.)

2,055

2,160

934

Landing Distance (ft.)

1,625

1,836

765

Engine (X1)

Pratt & Whitney Canada

PT6E-114/-114A

PT6A-114/-114A/-140

PT6A-34

Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) (lb.)

8,000

8,807

7,255

Wingspan

52 ft. 1 in.

45 ft.

Length

37 ft. 7 in.

41 ft. 7 in.

33 ft. 10 in.

Height

14 ft. 10 in.

15 ft. 5.5 in.

14.7 ft.

Although both variants of Textron’s Model 208 have a common maximum operating limit speed (VMO) of 175-kt. indicated airspeed (KIAS), the maximum operating altitude does differ. For example, both amphibian and landplane versions of the Model 208 are limited to a maximum operating altitude of 20,000 ft. for flight into known icing, a limitation that is increased to 25,000 ft. on landplanes that are powered by the 675-shp PT6A-114A, and 30,000 ft. on landplanes powered by 600-shp PT6A-114 and -114A engines. As is the case with the Model 208, the 208B—regardless of whether it has a PT6A-114 or -114A engine—is limited to 20,000 ft. for flight into known icing, with a 25,000-ft. maximum operating altitude limitation applicable otherwise. While flight into known icing is now enabled using a TKS anti-ice system—an option that was initially offered in 2008—the capability to operate in those conditions was originally provided through the installation of pneumatic deicing boots. On the leading edges of the empennage, wings and wing struts, the TKS anti-icing system functions by the releasing of TKS fluid through pores in “porous panels” that are attached at those locations, with TKS fluid also supplied to the cargo pod, propeller and windshield.

Beyond those certified limitations, Textron also promotes the Caravan as capable of a ground roll on takeoff of 1,160 ft. at the airframe’s MTOW; on a dry, hard-surface and level runway; and without any wind and in standard conditions. When Caravan is equipped with a cargo pod, that distance is increased to 1,170 ft., while the Caravan Amphibian has takeoff ground roll and water run distances of 1,431 ft. and 2,341 ft., respectively. The maximum climb rate and maximum cruise speed similarly differ, with the highest such rate being 1,234 ft. per min., a figure that is decreased to 1,036 ft. per min. on Caravan’s with a cargo pod and 939 ft. per min. on Caravan Amphibians. The maximum cruise speeds are 186-kt. true airspeed (KTAS), 178 KTAS (with a cargo pod) and 159 KTAS (Caravan Amphibians), while the respective maximum ranges—assuming a ferry mission conducted at the long-range cruise speed and carrying a 45-min. reserve—are 1,070 nm, 1,016 nm and 875 nm. Although Textron does not state under what conditions it can be achieved, the Caravan is promoted as having a landing distance of 1,625 ft., as well as a ground roll on landing of 715 ft.

Assuming the same criteria as for the Caravan, Textron markets the Grand Caravan EX as having a ground roll on takeoff—at the MTOW and with or without a cargo pod—of 1,399 ft. As is the case with the Caravan Amphibian, the Grand Caravan EX Amphibian requires a greater distance for takeoff ground roll (1,826 ft.) and takeoff water run (2,000 ft.)., while the maximum range (813 nm) is less than the comparable figure for the Caravan Amphibian. Grand Caravan EX Amphibian performance figures that are improved in comparison to the Caravan Amphibian include the maximum climb rate (1,212 ft. per min.) and maximum cruise speed (164 KTAS). Textron also states that the maximum climb rate for the Grand Caravan EX is 1,330 ft. per min., a figure that is reduced to 1,275 ft. per min. on Grand Caravan EX airframes that have a cargo pod. Similarly, while the maximum cruise speed for the Grand Caravan EX is 195 KTAS, that performance figure is reduced to 185 KTAS on cargo pod-equipped airframes. The installation of a cargo pod also impacts the range, with an airplane equipped with one capable of a range of 912 nm, a figure that is increased to 964 nm on Grand Caravan EX airplanes that do not have a cargo pod. On landing, the conditions under which the respective landing distance and landing ground figures of 1,836 ft. and 1,004 ft. can be expected are once again not described by the airframe manufacturer.

Assuming the 8,750-lb. MTOW and an airplane in the standard configuration, sea-level altitude, no wind and standard conditions and when operating from a dry, hard-surface and level runway, the Super Cargomaster’s takeoff ground roll is 1,405 ft., while the distance over a 50-ft. obstacle 2,500 ft. Cessna stated that after takeoff the airplane’s rate of climb at sea level is 925 ft. per min., and at the 8,500-lb. maximum landing weight and no reverse—but assuming the same field and environmental conditions as the takeoff performance figures—the ground roll and distance over a 50-ft. obstacle are 915 ft. and 1,740 ft., respectively. Based on the maximum cruise power, “2,224 lb. of usable fuel and fuel allowance engine start, taxi, takeoff, climb [and] descent” and while carrying a 45-min. reserve, the range of this cargo-configured Model 208B at 10,000 ft. is 862 nm, a figure that increases to 1,044 nm at 18,000 ft. At the same altitudes but when using the maximum-range power, the respective ranges are 963 nm and 1,076 nm. At the MTOW, the cruise speed of the Super Cargomaster is 175 kt. at 10,000 ft. and 164 kt. at 20,000 ft., figures that are raised by 9 kt. if an airframe is not equipped with a cargo pod.

In addition to those performance figures for Caravan and Grand Caravan EX airframes equipped as landplanes, Textron promotes the rugged nature of the landing gear and the large size of the “rough-field tires” as allowing both variants to operate from unpaved surfaces such as grass and gravel, as well as “even more rudimentary runways.” Specific to the main landing gear, they are “long-travel landing gear” that are “suspended by outboard spring legs and an inboard flex tube.”

Variants

Cessna Caravan

Type Designation

Model 208

Commercial Designation

Cessna Caravan

Cessna Caravan Amphibian

Maximum Passenger Capacity

10

Maximum Range (nm)

1,016*/1,070

875

Engine (1x)

Pratt & Whitney Canada

PT6A-114/-114A**

PT6A-114A

Takeoff and Maximum Continuous Power (shp)

600 (PT6A-114)/675 (PT6A-114A)

675

Basic Empty Weight (lb.)

4,730

5,585

Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW)(lb.)

8,000

8,750

Maximum Landing Weight (lb.)

7,800

7,300

Maximum Useful Load (lb.)

3,305

3,200

Maximum Payload (lb.)

3,070

Usable Fuel Capacity (gal.)

332

Wingspan

52 ft. 1 in.

Wing Area

279.4 ft.2

Length

37 ft. 7 in.

38 ft. 1 in.

Height

14 ft. 10 in.

17 ft. 7 in.

*When equipped with a cargo pod

**Can be operated at PT6A-114 limits

Cessna Grand Caravan

Type Designation

Model 208B

Commercial Designation

Cessna

Grand Caravan

Cessna

Grand Caravan EX

Cessna Grand Caravan EX Amphibian

Cessna Super Cargomaster

Maximum Passenger Capacity

10*/13**

2

Maximum Range (nm)

1,163

912***/964

813

1,076

Engine (1x)

Pratt & Whitney Canada

PT6A-114/-114A*

PT6A-140

PT6A-114A

Takeoff and Maximum Continuous Power (shp)

600 (PT6A-114)/675 (PT6A-114A)

867

675

Basic Empty Weight (lb.)

5,310

5,975

4,680****

Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW)(lb.)

8,750

8,807

9,062

8,750

Maximum Landing Weight (lb.)

8,500

8,500

Maximum Useful Load (lb.)

3,532

3,122

4,105

Maximum Payload (lb.)

3,190

Usable Fuel Capacity (gal./lb.)

335.3/2,246

332/2,224

Wingspan

52 ft. 1 in.

Wing Area

279.4 ft.2

Length

41 ft. 7 in.

Height

15 ft. 5.5 in.

17 ft. 5 in.

15 ft. 5.5 in.

             

*FAA passenger capacity

**EASA passenger capacity

***When equipped with a cargo pod

****Standard empty weight including full engine oil and operating fluids, as well as unusable fuel

Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A Engine

Both the Model 208 and 208B are certified to be powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-114 and -114A engines, with the -114 being replaced by the more-powerful -114A from Serial No. 20800277. Model 208B airframes from Serial No. 208B5000—in addition to 208B2197—are powered by the PT6A-140, which further increases the engine’s shaft horsepower limits. According to the FAA TCDS for the PT6A-114, -114A and -140, those engines are “free turbine turboprops” that incorporate a single annular combustion chamber, gas generator and power turbines that have a single stage and a “[three] axial plus one centrifugal-stage compressor.” While the -114 and -114A have maximum continuous shaft horsepower ratings of 600 shp and 675 shp, respectively, the TCDS for the Model 208 and 208B notes that the -114A can operated at the operating limits of the -114. The PT6A-140 that is certified to power Model 208B airframes including and beyond the serial number above—those currently marketed as the Grand Caravan EX—increases the shaft horsepower limits to 867 shp. The airframe’s TCDS states that those shaft horsepower ratings apply to the takeoff static and maximum continuous, maximum climb, maximum cruise and maximum reverse engine limits.

With the exception of airframes that are upgraded after delivery, the engines on all Model 208 and 208B airframes power a three-blade propeller that has a diameter of either 100 in. or 106 in., with Model 208 airframes from Serial No. 20800001 to 20800276 able to be equipped with a Hartzell Model HC-B3MN3/M10083 propeller that has a 100-in. diameter, and which is composite, constant-speed, full-feathering and reversible. The other propeller option for available for the Model 208—those including and subsequent to Serial No. 20800001, as well as all airplanes equipped with a TKS anti-icing system—is a McCauley Model 3GFR34C703/106GA-0 aluminum propeller that is constant-speed, full-feathering and reversible, while having a maximum diameter of 106 in. Although the Model 208B is also certified to be equipped with the same pair of three-blade propellers, no serial number ranges are specified. However, for Model 208B airframes powered by a PT6A-140 engine, two models of three-blade, 106-in. Hartzell aluminum propeller are certified—the HC-B3TN-3AF/T10890CN-2 and HC-B3TN-3AF/T10890CN(B)-2—propellers that are also constant-speed, full-feathering and reversible.

Cessna Caravan and Caravan Amphibian

In addition to the 8,000-lb. MTOW of non-amphibian Caravans, Textron notes that currently produced Caravans have a basic empty weight of 4,730 lb. and a 3,305-lb. useful load. The company also notes that the airframe’s maximum payload is 3,070 lb., a figure that is reduced to 1,081 lb. when it is carrying full fuel. Model 208 airframes—as well as 208B airplanes prior to Serial No. 208B5000—have a usable fuel capacity of 332 gal. (2,224 lb.) that is carried in a pair of 167.5-gal. wing tanks. Originally approved in 1985, the Caravan Amphibian’s 5,585-lb. empty weight and 8,750-lb. MTOW are greater than non-amphibian Caravans, while the useful load of 3,200 lb. is slightly less. Despite the fact that both amphibian and landplane versions of the Model 208 have a common wingspan, the former’s fuselage is lengthened by 6 in. and its height by nearly 3 ft. As is the case with currently produced Caravans, current Caravan Amphibians are powered by a PT6A-114A engine that has a 675-shp engine limit.

From a design perspective, both the Caravan and Grand Caravan are constructed using aluminum alloys that are conventional and which allow them to be “repair[ed] in the field.” Textron further promotes the airframes’ externally “braced, high-wing design” as giving it “easy handling” and stability. The primary control surfaces—ailerons, elevators and rudder—as well as the slot-lip roll spoilers, are actuated manually.

Cessna Grand Caravan, Grand Caravan EX and Grand Caravan EX Amphibian

When operated in icing conditions, the MTOW of Grand Caravans prior to Serial No. 208B5000—with the exception of Serial No. 208B2197—can differ from the 8,750-lb. limitation noted above based on the equipped engine, as well as the installation of a cargo pod or TKS anti-ice system. For Grand Caravans equipped with a PT6A-114 engine—as well as those powered by a PT6A-114A engine operated the -114’s operating limitations—the weight limitation for flight into known icing is 8,000 lb. for airframes equipped with a cargo pod and 8,450 lb. when that pod is removed. Grand Caravans that have a PT6A-114A engine operated at the 675-shp engine limit have MTOW limitations of 8,550 lb. and 8,750 lb. when the cargo pod is installed and removed, respectively. The 8,750-lb. limitation also applies to TKS-equipped Grand Caravans that operate the PT6A-114A engine at the 675-shp limitation. 

Although a number of limitations and specifications of the Grand Caravan EX and Grand Caravan EX Amphibian, those airframes do retain the same wingspan as the Caravan and Caravan Amphibian. In comparison to landplane versions of the Caravan, the Grand Caravan EX increases the MTOW by over 800 lb. to 8,807 lb., while the basic empty weight and useful load are similarly increased to 5,310 lb. and 3,532 lb., respectively. However, the FAA TCDS notes that when equipped with a TKS fairing, the MTOW of the Grand Caravan EX is reduced to 8,750 lb., a weight limitation that also applies to flight in known icing with the fairing. Also increased on the current production version of the Model 208B are the maximum payload (3,190 lb.) and full-fuel payload (1,286 lb.). Additionally, the usable fuel capacity of the Grand Caravan EX is slightly increased to 335.3 gal., with that fuel again carried in two 167.5-gal. wing tanks. It was the Grand Caravan EX which introduced the previously discussed, 867-shp PT6A-140 engine, an engine that Textron noted as providing a number of performance improvements. Those improvements include a takeoff roll that is shortened by 340 ft., as well as a rate of climb that is improved by 38% when compared to “the previous Grand Caravan model.”

According to Textron, the MTOW and empty weight of the Grand Caravan EX Amphibian are further increased in comparison to the non-amphibious version of the airframe, with the latter figure raised by over 600 lb. to 5,975 lb. The MTOW of the current amphibious version of the Model 208B increases to 9,062 lb., while the useful load is roughly 400 lb. lower than the Grand Caravan EX at 3,122 lb. The maximum payload, at 3,087 lb., is approximately 100 lb. less than that of the non-amphibian Grand Caravan EX, and the maximum amount of payload is reduced to 876 lb. when carrying full fuel. Promoted for its ability to access isolated regions, the floats installed on the Caravan Amphibian and Grand Caravan EX Amphibian also feature “watertight compartments” that can be utilized for additional storage space, with the baggage weight and volume of the Amphibian noted above. As is the case with the Caravan Amphibian’s PT6A-114A engine, the Grand Caravan EX Amphibian is equipped with the most-powerful PT6A variant certified for the Model 208B, the PT6A-140.

Cessna Caravan Cargomaster/Super Cargomaster

Despite the fact that the initial Caravan deliveries made to FedEx were Model 208 airframes that were marketed as the Cargomaster, the Super Cargomaster was launched in 1986 for the company “as a replacement for the original [Model 208-based] Cargomaster,” the latter of which the Cessna ceased production of. The Super Cargomaster currently operated by FedEx is based on the Model 208B and powered by the PT6A-114A, which is flat-rated at 675 shp at 1,900 rpm and has an initial time between overhaul (TBO) of 3,600 hr. The payload of the Super Cargomaster was increased by 750 lb. and the useful load is nearly 600 lb. more than the Grand Caravan EX—4,105 lb. versus 3,532 lb.—while the airframe’s MTOW is 8,750 lb.

The freight-specific features of the Super Cargomaster that were promoted by Cessna include the ability to install plywood “floor covering” over the existing flooring, the durability of the interior sidewalls, loading zones that are premarked and a cargo barrier that is located aft of the pilot seats. In comparison to the original Cargomaster, the Super Cargomaster increased the cabin volume by 112 ft.3 to 340 ft.3—matching what is found in the Grand Caravan—with that space being measured from aft of the pilot and front passenger seats. Including “the pilot and aft-cabin baggage area,” the cabin volume is increased to 427 ft.3, while the maximum allowable floor loading is 200 lb. per ft.2 The space in the Super Cargomaster’s cabin can be supplemented by the previously mentioned 111.5-ft.3 optional cargo pod that can accommodate 1,090 lb. and which is partitioned “into four compartments by bulkheads.” Beyond the maximum load weight limit of the cargo pod, the floor of the pod itself—which Textron has stated “was largely designed as a result of discussions with” FedEx—has a maximum loading of 30 lb. per ft.2

The Super Cargomaster’s cabin has a height of 4 ft. 3 in., maximum width of 5 ft. 2 in. and length of 21 ft. 4 in., the latter of which is measured from “the firewall to the aft bulkhead.” When the cabin length is measured from the “cargo barrier/nets to the aft cabin bulkhead,” that dimension is reduced to 16 ft. 8 in. Aside from two feet in the rear portion of the cabin which comprises the “aft cabin baggage area,” the Super Cargomaster has a flat floor, while the crew area in the forward cabin is separated from the cargo space “by a cargo barrier/net system.” Cessna stated that the purpose of the barrier and net system is to prevent “loose cargo from moving forward into the pilot and front passenger stations during an abrupt deceleration.” The combination of the cargo barrier and close-out nets are “designed to restrain a cargo load of 3,400 lb. up to 9G’s.” Access to the cargo space is possible through a two-piece cargo door that has the same dimensions as the one found on the Grand Caravan and is located on the left side of the airframe, while the pilot(s) and/or front-seat passenger access the cabin through the same pair crew doors located on each side of the fuselage.

Blackhawk Aerospace Engine Upgrades (Blackhawk Vx Engine+ Upgrade and XP140 Engine+ Upgrade)

One of the engine-upgrade programs available for the Caravan and Grand Caravan is Blackhawk Aerospace’s Vx Engine+Upgrade. As the name implies, the program upgrades either Model 208 and 208B airframes by swapping out the PT6A-114 or -114A with a PT6A-42A engine that has takeoff and maximum continuous shaft horsepower ratings at sea level of 850 shp. Described by Blackhawk as being “factory new” engines and promoted as increasing an equipped airframe’s load and performance capabilities, Blackhawk states that specific performance improvements of upgraded airframes involve the takeoff, climb and cruise phases of flight. Mission capability, the amount of payload that can be carried and safety margins are also improved, while the amount of available horsepower is increased by 28%. Other benefits include a higher resale value and a cabin temperature that is “significantly lower[ed],” the latter of which is enabled through an AC intake that is “optimized.” 

In comparison to a “stock Caravan,” the upgrade—which Blackhawk states takes two weeks to install—increases the cruise speed at 12,000 ft. from 173 KTAS to 189 KTAS, as well as the rate of climb at 8,000 ft. from 840 ft. per min. to 1,054 ft. per min. The 35% rate-of-climb increase and 189-KTAS cruise speed are both based on a Grand Caravan that is equipped with the Vx Engine+ Upgrade, in standard conditions, with no wind and when an airframe is not equipped with the previously mentioned cargo pod. Additionally, the time to climb is also marketed as being lowered by 50%, with the “quicker time to climb” figure assuming temperatures that are 20C above standard. The company also states that the upgrade decreases the distance of the takeoff ground roll by over 300 ft. from 1,365 ft. to 1,035 ft.—based on the conditions above—and the takeoff distance is promoted as being 22% shorter thanks to the upgrade. The increased power provided by the upgraded PT6A engine is also noted as being a benefit when operating from runways that are short or otherwise unimproved. 

Beyond the PT6A-42A engine and the improved AC intake, other features of Blackhawk’s Vx Engine+ Upgrade include a new cowling that is made of carbon-fiber composite, an engine bleed-valve ducting system that is “newly designed,” an inlet that is described as being “high efficiency,” an oil cooler that is 40% bigger and “factory-new” exhaust stacks, propeller and spinner. A number of options are also available as part of the upgrade, options such as Hawkeye DigiLog smart gauges, a 325-amp starter-generator and a “True Blue Power” lithium-ion battery.

Another Blackhawk upgrade for both the Model 208 and 208B is the XP140 Engine+ Upgrade, which replaces the PT6A-114 or -114A engine with a brand-new PT6A-140 engine. Similar to the company’s Vx Engine+ Upgrade, the benefits of the XP140 upgrade involve the airframe’s performance and payload, as well as safety margins. In comparison to the 850-shp maximum continuous shaft horsepower rating of the PT6A-42A engine, the -140 engine included as part of the upgraded has a horsepower rating of 867 shp. The upgrade is also promoted as increasing the available horsepower by 28%, having a takeoff distance that is 22% less, a rate of climb that is increased by 37% and a maximum cruise speed of 195 KTAS. That cruise speed is an improvement in comparison to the 178 KTAS cruise speed of the “stock Caravan,” while the climb rate at 8,000 ft. is similarly improved from 950 ft. per min. on the latter airframe to 1,300 ft. per min. on Caravan and Grand Caravans equipped with the engine upgrade. Furthermore, the takeoff distance is reduced from 1,175 ft. on stock Caravans to 925 ft. on upgraded airframes.

As is the case with Blackhawk’s upgrade to the PT6A-42A engine, the PT6A-140 engine upgrade is marketed as increasing the revenue-generation potential for operators, improving performance and resale value and expanding the number of airports that upgraded airframes can utilize. The upgrade also results in a number of engine maintenance benefits, with the TBO increased from 3,600 hr. to 4,000 hr., and the inspection interval for the engine’s hot section similarly raised from 1,800 hr. to 2,000 hr. Additionally, when it is started, the PT6A-140 has a starting temperature that is 100C lower thanks to a 325-amp starter-generator that was “newly developed,” while the start sequence was also reduced “by 50%” because of that component. Although a three-blade, 106-in. Hartzell propeller and spinner are standard, a five-blade, 97-in. composite MT propeller and spinner is available an option. Other component changes made include ducting and an oil cooler that have greater capacity, while Hawkeye DigiLog smart engine gauges are also installed.

Supervan 900 Upgrade

Another engine upgrade available for the Models 208 and 208B is Texas Turbine Conversions’ Supervan 900 program, which replaces the existing PT6A engine with a Honeywell TPE331-12JR turbofan engine and is promoted as improving fuel consumption, maintenance intervals and performance. In comparison to Caravans and Grand Caravans powered by a 675-shp PT6A-114A, as well as Grand Caravan EX’s that are equipped with an 867-shp PT6A-140, the TPE331-12JR engine is flat-rated to 900 shp, representing a 30% increase in static thrust when compared to the 675-shp -114A. According to the company, the fact that the engine is flat rated allows it to retain its “rated power at higher altitudes and higher temperatures”—as well as extending the life of the engine—while its direct-drive design gives it the ability provide “instantaneous power response with no spool-up time.”

Supplementing the engine upgrade, also installed is a four-blade, 110-in. Hartzell propeller that is full-feathering and reversible, and has benefits—when combined with the Honeywell engine—that include noise reduction and performance improvements. In addition to the features and specifications of the Hartzell propeller, Texas Turbine Conversions states that the propeller is “designed around takeoff and climb performance,” the performance benefits of which are marketed as being particularly beneficial when operating in “marginal conditions.” Also promoted for reducing the operating cost on a per-hour basis, other components installed on Caravans and Grand Caravans that install the Supervan 900 upgrade include new engine cowlings and mount—as well as engine instruments—the latter of which excludes the fuel-flow and oil-pressure instruments. Those components are supplemented by new components such as an “electrical junction box and modified electrical system,” electronic alternator and generator control units, oil cooler, starter-generator and Teledyne 7639-30LT sealed batteries.

The conversion provider also states that airframes upgraded with the Supervan 900 conversion have one exhaust that is located on the opposite side of the airframe from the cargo door, while lacking an inlet particle separator. The absence of the latter is promoted as requiring reduced hardware, as well as having a “performance penalty” that is significant reduced when an airframe is operating in icing conditions. Another maintenance benefit that is promoted for upgraded airplanes is a “clean installation” that allows line replaceable units (LRU) to be accessed. As is the case with the Vx Engine+Upgrade, the performance benefits of the Supervan 900 include reduced takeoff distances, improved climb rates and faster cruise speeds. Supplementing those performance benefits, Texas Turbines states that the combination of the “slower-turning” Honeywell engine and four-blade Hartzell propeller makes upgraded Model 208 and 208B airframes quieter, with equipped airplanes “certified to 76 [db].” The company also notes that the noise produced by airframes that have the Supervan 900 conversion performed is at a level that “meets [the] enhanced German Airfield Noise Protection Order.”

In comparison to Grand Caravans equipped with the previously discussed cargo pod, as well as Grand Caravan EX airframes without it, the Supervan 900 conversion allows equipped airplanes to improve a variety of maintenance intervals, performance figures and weight limitations. The TBO of converted airframes is increased to between 5,000 and 7,000 hr., and torque to 2,971 ft.-lb., both of which represent improvements in comparison to the Grand Caravan and Grand Caravan EX noted above. The maximum gross weight of the Supervan 900 is promoted as being in the range of 8,750-9,062 lb., the latter of which matches Textron’s figure for the Grand Caravan EX Amphibian and applies to upgraded airframes that have the “gross weight increase kit installed.” Additionally, converted Caravan and Grand Caravans have an empty weight of 5,100 lb. and useful load of 3,962 lb.

Aside from the 4.6-hr. endurance at the maximum cruise speed and when carrying standard fuel—which is less than the 5.1-hr. endurance figure for the cargo pod-equipped Grand Caravan—and the maximum fuel flow at cruise, Texas Turbine Conversions markets its upgraded airframe as able to achieve performance figures that are equal to or better than most of those of the Grand Caravan and Grand Caravan EX. Upgraded airframes have a takeoff ground roll and distance over a 50-ft. obstacle of 825 ft. and 1,470 ft., respectively, a climb rate—in standard conditions and at the gross weight—of 1,559 ft. per min., a maximum cruise speed at 10,000 ft. of 198 kt. and a landing distance of 950 ft. The conversion provider also states that the stall speed with flaps matches the 61-kt. airspeeds of the Grand Caravan with a cargo pod and Grand Caravan EX without one. At 440 lb. per hr., the cruise fuel flow is greater than the 396 lb. per hr. figure for cargo pod-equipped Grand Caravans, with the Grand Caravan EX’s 437 lb. per hr. figure also slightly lower than what the Supervan 900 is marketed as being capable of. Despite that higher fuel flow during cruise flight, airframes upgraded by Texas Turbines have a range of 910 nm—also based on standard fuel and the maximum cruise speed—while Grand Caravan and Grand Caravan EX airplanes that do not feature the company’s upgrade have respective range figures of 860 nm and 810 nm.

Hybrid-Electric Grand Caravan EX

On July 20, 2021, Textron announced that Los Angeles-based Surf Air Mobility had placed an order for as many 150 Grand Caravan EX airframes—100 orders initially and a further 50 options—that will be equipped with the latter company’s “proprietary hybrid-electric powertrain technology.” According to Textron, it is anticipated that deliveries of those Grand Caravan EX airplanes will begin in the second quarter of 2022, with the modification to utilize Surf Air Mobility’s hybrid-electric powertrain done by that company after delivery. Surf Air Mobility expects that Grand Caravan EX airframes equipped with its hybrid-electric powertrain will “be available as early as 2024,” with that availability following FAA approval of the supplemental type certificate (STC) for the modifications. In addition to using hybrid-electric Caravans throughout on its own network to provide “short-haul direct service,” Surf Air Mobility also plans—through its agreement with Textron—to make retrofitted airframes available to both current and new operators through the conversion to hybrid-electric propulsion. 

From a design perspective, the first version of Surf Air Mobility’s electrified Grand Caravan EX “will be a hybrid model” that does not need charging while the airplane is on the ground. Rather than utilizing ground-based charging, a “combustion motor will charge” the airframe’s battery while it is airborne. The lack of a need to charge batteries while the airplane is on the ground is promoted as allowing the airframe to operate at a large number of public-use airports in the U.S. Surf Air Mobility also states that the benefits of Grand Caravan EX airframes that utilize a hybrid-electric powerplant include operating costs and carbon emissions that are both reduced by 25%, while having performance capabilities that are “similar” to turbine-powered Grand Caravan EX airframes that are utilized “in the same ways across cargo, passenger and special-mission applications.”

Special-Mission Airframes

In addition to being utilized to carry passengers and cargo for a variety of civilian users, special-mission airframes based on the Caravan and Grand Caravan have also been flown by a number of governmental operators. Those special-mission airframes include Northrop Grumman’s AC-208 Armed Caravan and AC-208 Eliminator, with the latter having reconnaissance and ground-attack capabilities.

Another Caravan-based special-mission airframe is the MC-208 Guardian, which is offered by Virginia-based MAG Aerospace and was one of the airframes competing for the U.S. Special Operations Command’s (SOCOM) “Armed Overwatch” program. According to the company, the MC-208 can perform a variety of missions, including air mobility, close air support, casualty and medical evacuation (CASEVAC/MEDEVAC), ISR, and precision strike.

Program Status/Operators

Although the production of the Caravan took place in Wichita for over 30 years, Textron moved that production to the company’s Independence, Kansas, facilities that also build a number of the company’s other single-engine airplanes, including the Cessna 172S Skyhawk, 182T Skylane and T206H Turbo Stationair.

References

  • AWIN Article Archives
  • Blackhawk Aerospace, Daher, Surf Air Mobility, Texas Turbine Conversions and Textron Aviation Commercial Materials
  • EASA TCDS (Model 208/208B)
  • FAA TCDS (Kodiak 100, Model 208/208B, PT6A-114/-114A/-140)

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