Cessna Launches SkyCourier Utility Twin

Launch customer FedEx Express signs contract for up to 100 airplanes, with the first due to enter service in 2020.

Cessna SkyCourier
The Cessna SkyCourier 408 will enter service in 2020.Textron Aviation

Building on a three-decade business relationship with FedEx Express, Textron Aviation today launched a clean-sheet high-wing utility twin turboprop, the Cessna SkyCourier 408, due to enter service in 2020.

Powered by a pair of 1,100 shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65SC engines, the SkyCourier will be capable of loading three standard LD3 shipping containers through a large cargo door, making it a perfect feeder solution for FedEx Express, a longtime operator of Cessna Caravans. As part of the launch announcement, FedEx Express said it has placed a firm order for 50 SkyCouriers and options for 50 more.

The all-new Caravan sibling is on a fast development track with entry into service planned for 2020. Preliminary performance specifications call for a 6,000-pound max payload capability, 200 ktas cruise speed and 900 nm max range, all numbers that put the new model in the operational sweet spot FedEx demands. Textron Aviation opted not to select GE’s new Advance Turboprop engines for the SkyCourier due to the short development timeline, which was driven by the operational needs of FedEx.

“FedEx Express has had a great relationship with Textron Aviation over the years, and this new, advanced aircraft will play a key role in our feeder aircraft modernization strategy,” said David L. Cunningham, president and CEO of FedEx Express. “The Cessna SkyCourier 408 offers a number of significant features that will enhance our long-term feeder strategy.”

Textron Aviation also announced that a 19-passenger version will be offered, featuring dual crew doors up front and a single passenger door at the rear of the cabin. Max payload for the passenger version has been set at 5,000 pounds.

The unpressurized SkyCourrier’s appearance is reminiscent of the Twin Otter utility turboprop, which is still in production by type certificate holder Viking Air of British Columbia. The SkyCourier will be slightly larger than the Twin Otter and offer improved performance and a competitive price, all considerations that undoubtedly convinced FedEx Express to partner with Textron Aviation on the project.

The value of the FedEx deal is worth up to $550 million based on a list price for the SkyCourier of $5.5 million. Avionics will be the Garmin G1000 NXi platform.