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TURBOPROP ROUND-UP (2006)

June 2006

Category: Review of Jets for sale

Author: Dave Higdon

Turboprops remain a mainstay of business aviation

Once again the jet selection available to business operators stands poised to expand – before the end of the month – with the certification of the first VLJ. And once again some wags within aviation want to update the obituary for turboprops as a viable class of business aircraft for sale.

But these murmurings carry no more reality now than the last couple of times they circulated – specifically around the launch of the original Citation Jet for sale nearly two decades ago and after the launch of the first "everyman’s" jet, the original Citation, more than three decades back.

In fact, according to the latest report from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, propjet sales appear capable of holding their own against a veritable onslaught of VLJs in development – the soon-to-win-its-wings Eclipse 500, the Mustang, Cessna’s latest jet to target the everyman market, the Adam A700, and several others.

Yes, according to GAMA’s numbers, propjet deliveries in the first quarter of 2006 grew by two deliveries over the same quarter a year ago. That’s not exactly chart-topping growth, but growth all the same, where some expected market contraction.

The reasons why business turboprop aircraft for sale seemingly defy their own deaths vary according to the buyer’s needs and views. It may be availability; maybe mission need; cabin volume; costs; DoCs – or a combination of several. Pilot qualifications may play a role, particularly among the owner/pilot who faces fewer hurdles qualifying and insuring a single propjet than a multi-engine turbojet.

The bottom line remains unchanged: Propjets sell because they match a set of needs not met by other aircraft options. The evidence is in the fleet numbers. As of 2003’s survey of NBAA members, propjets accounted for one in five of the 9,560 aircraft members operated – 1,969, to be exact.

As with all aircraft decisions, the choice of a turboprop, the size and configuration, tend to be dictated by the needs and budgets of buyers. Even as VLJs begin to move beyond marketing fodder and into the real world, we may just find that propjets will have a long future tied to their specific characteristics.

We’ll examine some of those strengths here, as we inventory the world of business turboprops midway through 2006.

THE SINGLE ENGINE AIRPLANES FOR SALE
Cessna Aircraft: Caravan 675 & Grand Caravan
These two airplanes for sale made their bones on the strength of their airframes, their reliability and cost efficiency in the service of the demanding overnight express-delivery world. But you can find Caravan 675 and Grand Caravan aircraft operating in almost every environment imaginable – charter, scheduled service, bush operations on skis and floats and in back-country service far from any means of maintenance support.

It’s the total sum of its capabilities that keeps the Caravan rolling off the assembly line at Cessna’s main campus in Wichita, Kansas.

A simple, strong, non-pressurized airframe, the standard and Grand Caravans can pack in the passengers or packages and cover just over 1,000nm cruising at a respectable 184kts. The Caravan 675 – so named because of the power of its P&WC PT6A-114A powerplant – can lift 959 lbs with full fuel; the Grand Caravan, similarly fueled, can carry away a whopping 1,303 lbs.

With enviable runway performance – and beefy fixed landing gear – the Caravan needs little more than 2,000 feet of runway (at a Balanced Field Length standard), should the occasion demand such short-field operations. The Grand needs slightly more runway – but at 2,400 feet Balanced Field Length, it’s still a short-field airplane.

Best of all for the operator in need of maximum flexibility, the Caravans can be fitted with an interior that needs only a 30-minute window to switch from passenger to cargo or back. And this same interior allows a flexible mix of seats and freight.

Operators also have a choice between panels from Bendix King and Garmin, when equipping their choice of Caravans. Other options available include a choice of interior types – standard, executive, cargo – as well as standard and amphibious floats from Wipline and snow skis for Arctic-like environments.

Best of all, the Caravan has among the friendliest flight characteristics of any aircraft flying. From experience, it’s worth pointing out that a pilot who can handle a Cessna 172 single engine airplanes for sale or Cessna 182 airplanes for sale should find adapting to this propjet extremely easy. It takes about $1.7 million to fly away in a new Caravan 675, and a bit more than $1.7 million gets the Grand Caravan.

More information from www.cessna.com

Extra Aircraft for sale: EA 500
Arguably the newest and most unusual of the propjets available today, the Extra EA-500 may to some appear a bit on the smallish side. But inside you’ll find a surprising amount of space for the pilot and five passengers – thanks to the carbon-fiber composite airframe. Throw in generous speed, long range and enviable fuel efficiency and you have a machine worth celebrating – particularly for the business-owner/pilot the EA-500 targets.

Not a bad way to start 2006, the 25th anniversary year for the company and the designer (Walter Extra) who after 25 years of designing distinctive aircraft hasn’t yet turned 52. Mr. Extra employed some ingenious touches to give his pressurized single a distinctive droplet-shaped fuselage and aerodynamically efficient cantilevered high-wing. The result: A speedy, fuel-efficient machine with flexibility like none other.

For example, the Extra 500’s diminutive Rolls-Royce 250 turboprop engine develops 450shp but weighs in at only 205 lbs installed. The combination of weight and power give the EA-500 the ability to cruise as fast as 230kts in the middle altitudes – or fly at its certificated service of FL250 and still turn a respectable 210kts at fuel burns near 20gph. At those consumption rates and with full fuel, the EA-500 can cover more than 1,500nm at a time, carrying two people and gear for a long trip.

Not shabby for a pressurized bird priced comfortably under $1.4 million. And with the birth of a new Extra Aircraft in 2003 under US Ownership the EA-500’s potential seems much improved from before.

Another improvement worth noting will be EA-500’s fully integrated cockpit, featuring independent flight instrumentation, EFIS, MFD, traffic advisory systems, airborne weather and engine managements systems. Extra small airplane for sale is currently evaluating the latest aircraft avionics suites on the market, but whatever system is decided upon, it will be included in the base price of the aircraft and will increase the EA-500’s competitive status in a field dominated by aircraft with modern all-electronic panels.

More information from www.extraaircraft.com

New Piper Aircraft: Piper Meridian Business Turboprops for sale
An outgrowth of the 22-years-young Malibu Mirage, the Meridian stands as the current top-of-the-line model in New Piper’s line of single engine airplanes for sale and twin engine airplanes for sale. Among the traits that contribute to the company’s success with the Meridian is its strong, pressurized six-place cabin and high-speed, high-flying characteristics.

It all starts up front, where New Piper opted for P&WC’s proven PT6A-42A, flat rated to only 500 shp from more than double that in thermodynamic capability. Reliability was the goal and it works.

In another move toward reliability, the Meridian pioneered the solid-state panel among single- and twin-propjet aircraft and today’s model offers the improved panel available from Avidyne – the highly capable Entegra Flat Panel Display System.

As installed in the Meridian, the Entegra system provides each pilot position with its own 10.4-inch Primary Flight Display (PFD) on which all the primary flight instruments as well as primary engine instruments appear. Solid-state sensors – Dual ADAHARS for Avidyne Air Data and Attitude Heading Reference Systems – are built into each PFD to take the place of spinning-mass gyros for greater performance and reliability.

Centered in the panel is a third 10.4-inch display serving as a Multifunction Display (MFD) for navigation and engine-data monitoring. Below the MFD New Piper installs a pair of Garmin’s proven GNS-430 all-in-one Nav/Com/GPS units, plus the GTX-330 Mode S Transponder with live traffic reporting. Standard equipment also includes the Allied Signal (Honeywell) RDR-2000 vertical profiling weather radar and the full-function S-Tec/Magic autopilot.

But most important among all that buyers find attractive about the Meridian is its flight characteristics. The Meridian is, simply put, a lovely, well-harmonized aviating machine. Hand flying in busy airspace is a treat, though the S-Tec flight control can handle all your needs with the touch of a button.

Maneuvering in a busy airport pattern is a relaxed experience thanks to the Meridian’s wide speed range and low, 61-knot stall speed. So staying ahead of jets is as easy as staying well behind a slow-moving piston single.

Speaking of speed, the Meridian can take you as high as FL300, cruise as fast as 260kts and cover as much as 1,000nm at a leap. During several exposures to the Meridian, cruising at FL250 at 250kts yielded a fuel burn of about 250 lbs per hour – a nice, easy set of numbers for flight planning.

And in keeping with its normal environment, the Meridian demands little in the way of runway length – capable of taking off from as little as 2,438 feet to clear a 50-foot obstacle. Landing needs even less runway – a brief 2,110 feet, again clearing that mythological 50-foot obstacle at the end of the strip.

The package price for this level of performance starts at $1.895 million, well equipped. New Piper also offers a number of comfort and flight options, should you feel the need.

More information from www.newpiper.com

Pilatus: PC-12
If Walter Extra’s diminutive EA-500 is the "Sports Coup" of this class, the Pilatus PC-12 business turboprop for sale wins honors as the "Sport Utility Vehicle" of the group. Fast, spacious, heavy duty – all describe the big PC-12.

Fast, first: This Swiss masterpiece can turn in 270kts true, thanks in part to the efficient airframe and that big P&WC PT6A-67B making a whopping 1,200 shp. All that power works because the PC-12 is a big bird – capable of seating up to 10 and boasting a gross weight of 10,450 lbs. That makes the PC-12 hands-down the biggest in its class of single-propjets.

But big doesn’t mean unwieldy – and from my experience, the PC-12 is anything but unwieldy. For example, the PC-12 can operate at gross weight out of fields shorter than 2,700 feet – or a lot shorter at lower weights. Horsepower does have its advantages.

The PC-12 can also carry more than 1,200 lbs and full fuel – that’s another 2,704 lbs. With full fuel and a full cabin, the PC-12 can cover 1,449nm. Clearly, this is a machine with flexibility in big numbers. Trim the fuel load 700 lbs, for example, and you can put 700 lbs more directly into cabin payload – and still cover more than 1,000 miles.

A huge combination passenger/cargo door in the aft fuselage makes loading outsize materials a relative snap. Put in four or six passengers, cargo or luggage for a week of skiing and scuba diving, and head where you will. Or, for business needs, four execs, their trade show booth, samples – whatever will fit will fly.

Last year Pilatus revealed plans to offer CMC Electronics' PilotView EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) and M-Series EVS (Enhanced Vision System) as factory options on new PC-12 aircraft. In May we learned that Pilatus also plans to offer both systems as retrofit kits for installation in existing PC-12 aircraft through the company's network of dealers. Certification of both systems in the PC-12 is expected this summer, according to CMC.

With this big performance and big capability comes a hefty price tag, however, one that matches the machine’s abilities. But even at $3.35 million, Pilatus finds the market hot for the PC-12 – solid testimony to the needs it fills for the folks who fly them.

More information from www.pilatus-aircraft.com

Socata aircraft for sale: TBM 850
The folks at EADS in Europe last winter decided to turn the tables on the VLJ community – the source of so many ‘doom-and-gloom’ predictions for business turboprops for sale – by updating the successful TMB 700 into something better.

The TBM 850 announced last December may put a little heat on the tails of all those light jets, because the change to the 850 shp PT6A-66D – another flat-rated number – moved the TBM into near head-to-head speed competition with some VLJs.

At a cruise speed of 320 kts – and at fuel consumption rates only a single-propjet can boast of – the TBM 850 holds the promise for jet-like speeds at lower direct operating costs. Figure just under 60 gph burned to deliver this level of speed. Even with the engine change and an increase in payload, the TBM 850 retains the excellent handling and plush comfort of the TBM 700 that preceded it.

In fact, looking at numbers such as runway requirements, fuel burn and speed, there’s only one area in which some VLJs will be competitive – price. At $2.8 million for a well-equipped version, the TBM 850 is a bit higher than Cessna’s Citation Mustang and nearly double the price of an Eclipse 500. But in terms of space, comfort, equipment and all-around performance, many a buyer will look at the long-term operating costs and decide they can live without a jet.

More information from www.socata.eads.net

Vulcanair SpA: Mission VF-600W
Even at its peak, the proposed SIAI-Marchetti SF-600 turbine twin never made much progress into the consciousness of the business-operator market. So you’re to be forgiven if you hear the name and repeat it with a big "?" as a verbal punctuation mark.

In fact, the project pretty much faded before it won much visibility. But enter Vulcanair SpA, based near Naples, Italy, which has done something better described as "morphing" the airplane than resurrecting it. Vulcanair today offers the VF-600W Mission as a completely different airplane than the original.

For example, en route to the new Mission, Vulcanair’s engineers pulled the original wings and their twin Rolls-Royce 250 turboprops for sale that designer Stelio Frati originally gave the airplane. Replacing the original wings is a new technology airfoil, strut-braced, with high-lift characteristics enhanced by large Fowler flaps. The combination not only reduced cruise drag but it also lowered the Mission’s stall speed to a FAR 23-friendly 61 kts.

For motive force, Vulcanair’s engineers installed a single 777 shp Walter M601 in the nose. The result is a decidedly Caravan-like utility aircraft that's designed to go head-to-head with Cessna’s $1.7 million Cessna Grand Caravan. While the Vulcanair bird is slightly larger than Cessna’s venerable propjet single, the Mission also sports a 600 lbs lower operating empty weight.

At its maximum takeoff weight of 8,598 lbs and a full 2,300 lbs fuel load, Mission will be able to carry about 1,900 lbs on legs of 1,000 nm. Shorten up the leg and fuel on board and the Mission can haul upwards of 3,500 lbs – and for a mere $1 million price tag.

More information from +39 081.5918111

THE TWIN ENGINE AIRPLANES FOR SALE
Piaggio Aero Industries: P180 Avanti II
Few aircraft flying deliver the visual punch of this Italian masterpiece of design, engineering and execution. The Avanti long reigns as the artistic monarch of business aviation and has done since its introduction 16 years ago.

The fastest of the propjet fleet, the Avanti II boasts a high-speed cruise capability of a scorching 398 kts, around 100 kts faster than any other twin and more than 70 kts faster than the fastest turboprop single. In fact, the Avanti II’s long-range cruise of 311 kts lags the fastest single by only 9 kts – and still beats all other turboprops’ high-speed numbers by anywhere from 55 to 150 kts.

Thanks for this smoking performance go to the overall package – the 850 shp of each P&WC PT6A-66B engine and the slick, sleek lines of the unique three-wing airframe.

With full fuel, the Avanti II can fly with a staggering 1,450 lbs of payload and cover more than 1,500nm while turning in the best fuel-efficiency numbers in business aviation – easily 30 percent better than comparable jets and 25 percent above the second most-efficient propjet.

If all this speed and efficiency weren’t already enough to attract growth business, there’s also the roomy seven-place cabin (max seating capacity 9+1) – it is six feet wide at the hip – and the quiet of pusher powerplants mounted well behind the cabin’s aft pressure bulkhead.

Size wise, the cabin volume compares well to the Hawker 800 as well as some other $8 million business jets – but the $6.2 million Avanti II wins out, price wise, size wise, speed wise and, best of all, operating-cost wise.

More information from www.piaggioaero.com

PZL: M28 Skytruck/PZL M28 05
For some the PZL M28 Skytruck may seem a throwback, but as hundreds of de Havilland Twin Otter operators can attest, utility and reliability never go out of style. So the folks at Ploskie Zaklady Lotnicze (PZL) in Poland put their efforts into certificating this 19-passenger bird in 2004 and spreading the word of its flexibility to the waiting market.

While not your typical executive-style aircraft, the M28 does offer the ability to ferry large numbers of people – up to 18, plus an attendant – a large quantity of gear or any combination of the two. The two 1,100 shp PT6A-65B powerplants give the M28 a top cruise speed of about 175 kts. But speed isn’t its main appeal: load-carrying capabilities are the significant draw.

With full fuel and nearly 3,000 lbs of payload the M28 can cover more than 1,100 nm at about 150 kts. The M28 is also very runway friendly, capable of taking off from strips as short as 1,066 feet and landing in even less.

Indeed, the M28 provides all of this capability for a rather Spartan $4.75 million, well equipped. That price even includes an integral cargo loading and unloading system that uses for access a pair of clamshell doors in the aft fuselage.

More information from www.pzlmielec.pl

Raytheon Business Jet Aircraft for sale: Beech King Airs C90GT, B200 & 350
Pick your price point: $2.9 million; $5.1 million; or $5.9 million. There’s a Beechcraft King Air to fit your needs, whether mission-driven or budget-oriented.

The C90GT is the latest derivative of the original King Air C90 airplanes for sale that first hit the market more than 40 years ago. Complete with new power and paint, the C90GT stands as the world’s best-selling business turboprop aircraft for sale – the result of great flying traits for the single-pilot owner who typically flies this model, as well as solid performance and high value. Capable of carrying up to six at speeds as high as 270 kts, the C90GT is flexible and rugged. And it’s good for legs of just over 1,000 nm.

The King Air B200 business turboprops for sale adds seating for three to five more people, ups the maximum range to more than 1,600 nm, and retains the harmonious handling and rugged reliability of its smaller cousin.

The King Air 350 aircraft for sale is the biggest of the trio, capable of handling nine to 15 people, depending on configuration, speeds of more than 310 kts, and legs of nearly 1,500 nm. So essentially, the question becomes: What size King Air fits your mission needs?

More information from www.raytheonaircraft.com

UP AND COMING…
Bell Turbine Helicopters for sale/Agusta: BA609 Tiltrotor
This aircraft’s traits make it uniquely qualified to lead a revolution in city-center-to-city-center travel, should visionary planners someday support the concept with strategically placed helipads for the BA609 Tiltrotor that has long been making flight-tests in Texas.

Already operational with the U.S. Marine Corps is a larger cousin to the BA609 known as the V-22 Osprey. Both the Osprey and the nine-seat BA609 share in the VTOL ability unique to Tiltrotors – to launch and land like a helicopter, and cruise at speeds typical for a fixed-wing propjet.

Bell/Agusta’s first test BA609 has been flying at Bell’s Ft. Worth facility for more than three years, reaching speeds of 277 knots – 100 knots faster than most turbine helicopters – and at altitudes of 14,000 msl. Pressurized for operations up to FL250, the BA609 promises operators all the same comfort and efficiency of a fixed-wing turboprop, plus the vertical landing/takeoff convenience of a helicopter.

Of course, landing sites convenient to urban areas are key to the 609 achieving its promise, since it has no advantages if relegated to flying between conventional airports – and considerable cost handicaps if so restricted.

But with 60 customers signed so far, there are obviously plenty who believe in the Tiltrotor’s potential. The second test bird should enter the development fleet later this year, with a third and fourth certification article coming next year.

Certification is expected before the end of the decade.

More information from www.bellagusta.com

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