This month Cessna’s 208 Caravan turboprop is the focus for comparison alongside the Daher-Socata TBM 700C2 and the Piper Meridian.

Mike Chase  |  01st June 2010
Back to Articles
Mike Chase
Mike Chase

Mike Chase has four decades of extensive global managerial experience in the Corporate Aviation, commercial...

Read More

In this month’s Aircraft Comparative Analysis- we will provide information on a selection of Pre-Owned turboprops in the $1.9-$2.07 million price range for the purpose of valuing the Cessna 208 Caravan aircraft. Here- we’ll consider the productivity parameters - payload/ range- speed and cabin size- and cover current market values.

The field in this study includes Daher- Socata’s TBM 700C2 (2006 model) and Piper’s Meridian PA 46TP aircraft. The Cessna 208 Caravan began deliveries in 1985.

The Cessna 208 Caravan model is a single engine turboprop powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PT6A-114A powerplant- and is also known as the Caravan I. The Caravan can be fitted with seats or cargo holds. In addition it can be equipped with amphibious floats or skis making it a truly versatile aircraft.

First flight came in December 1982- and the production model was certified by the FAA in October 1984. Since then- the Caravan has undergone a number of design evolutions including the ‘Cargomaster’- and the stretched- upgraded ‘Super Cargomaster’. The Grand Caravan passenger model was eventually derived from the Super Cargomaster.

Cessna offers the 208B in many configurations. The basic 208 airframe can be outfitted with various types of landing gear- allowing it to operate in a wide variety of environments. Many variants also include an under-belly cargo pod- which can be used for additional freight capacity- or for passenger baggage.

Keeping it current for today’s market- in 2008 Cessna announced that the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit would be standard equipment on all new Caravans.

The data contained in Table A (left) is published in the B&CA- May 2010 issue and also sourced from Conklin & de Decker. As we mentioned in past articles- a potential operator should focus on payload capability. The 208 Caravan “Available payload with Maximum Fuel” at 916 pounds is greater than the rest of the field in this comparative study.

According to Conklin & de Decker- the cabin volume of the 208 Caravan- at 254 cubic feet is more than twice that of either the Piper Meridian and the TBM 700C2 at 120 cubic feet each- (Chart A (left)). The Caravan has the seating capacity for nine passengers whereas the Meridian and TBM 700C2 can each accommodate five.

As mentioned previously- the 208 Caravan aircraft is powered by a PT6A-114A engine- offering 675 SHP. The Piper Meridian has a PT6A- 42A engine offering less SHP at 500- and the TBM 700C2 has a PT6A-64 engine offering more SHP at 700.

Using data published in the May 2010 B&CA Planning and Purchasing Handbook and the August 2009 B&CA Operations Planning Guide we will compare our aircraft. Jet A fuel cost used from our source publications was $4.25 per gallon at press time for the August 2009 edition- so for the sake of comparison we’ll chart the numbers as published.

Chart B (left)- which details “Cost per Mile”- compares the Caravan 208 to its competition factoring direct costs and with all aircraft flying a 600nm mission with a 400 pound (four passengers) payload. The 208 Caravan shows the cost per mile comparisons at $2.14 per nautical mile- which is more expensive to operate than either the TBM 700C2 at $1.64 or the Piper Meridian at $1.44.

The “Total Variable Cost” illustrated in Chart C (left)- is defined as the cost of Fuel Expense- Maintenance Labor Expense- Scheduled Parts Expense- and Miscellaneous trip expense. The total variable cost for the 208 Caravan at $389 per hour is more expensive to operate than the Piper Meridian ($341 per hour) but less expensive than the TBM 700C2 at $457 per hour.

The points in Chart D (top right) center on the same group of aircraft. Pricing used in the vertical axis is as published in the B&CA 2010 Purchase Planning Handbook and Vref. The productivity index requires further discussion in that the factors used can be somewhat arbitrary. Productivity can be defined (and it is here) as the multiple of three factors.

1. Range with full payload and available fuel;
2. The long range cruise speed flown to achieve that range;
3. The cabin volume available for passengers and amenities.

The result is a very large number so for the purpose of charting- each result is divided by one billion. The examples plotted are confined to the aircraft in this study. A computed curve fit on this plot would not be very tight- but when all business jet aircraft are considered the “r” squared factor would equal a number above 0.9. Others may choose different parameters- but serious business aircraft buyers are usually impressed with Price- Range- Speed and Cabin Size.

After consideration of the Price- Range- Speed and Cabin Size- we can conclude that the 208 Caravan as shown on the productivity index Chart D is reasonably competitive with the other aircraft in the field of study.

Table B (right) contains the retail prices from the May 2010 Vref edition for each aircraft. The prices shown are for the last year of manufacture. The number of aircraft in-operation- percentage “For Sale” and the average number “Sold” over the past 12 months are from JETNET. As shown- the 208 Caravan has the lowest percentage of the in-operation fleet “For Sale” at 9.2% (seller’s market).

Over the past 12 months since the end of April 2010- the 208 Caravan has averaged 3.4 sales per month - activity providing many opportunities for the savvy dealer/broker specializing in the 208 Caravan aircraft.

The majority of the 208 Caravan aircraft in operation by continent are located in North America (48%)- followed by South America at 14% and Asia at 12%- as shown in Chart E (overleaf). These three continents account for 74% of the 208 Caravan aircraft in operation around the world today.

The top seven countries that the 208 Caravan operates in are as follows: U.S. (126); Canada (56); Brazil (33); Australia (27); South Africa (14); Japan (13); and Columbia (11). Combined- these account for over 71% of the in-operation 208 Caravans.

Finally- the airport performance of our comparative aircraft field is illustrated in Table C. The 208 Caravan has the shortest take-off airport field length (TOFL) of all the aircraft in this field of study.

Within the preceding paragraphs we have touched upon several of the attributes that business aircraft operators value. There are other qualities such as terminal area performance- and time-to-climb performance that might factor in a buying decision- too.

Essentially- the 208 Caravan fares well against its competition- so those operators in the market should find the preceding comparison of value. Our expectations are that this aircraft- which started delivering in 1985- will continue to do very well in the pre-owned market.

For more information: Michael Chase is president of Chase & Associates- and can be contacted at 1628 Snowmass Place- Lewisville- TX75077; Tel: 214-226- 9882; Web:


Bell 206B II 1
Bell 206B II
Price: £395,000
United Kingdom - England
Leonardo AW169 1
Leonardo AW169
Please call
United Kingdom - England
Airbus/Eurocopter AS 350B-2 1
Airbus/Eurocopter AS 350B-2
Price: €890,000
Cessna Citation XLS+ 1
Cessna Citation XLS+
Please call
United States - MA
loder image