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Onwards and upwards with the Grand Caravan.

Mike Vines   |   1st December 2005
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Mike Vines Mike Vines

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Onwards and upwards with the Cessna Grand Caravan For Sale

Having looked at the developmental and early years of the Cessna Grand Caravan aircraft for sale last month- we pick up the story at the 1990 NBAA Convention in Dallas- where Cessna announced a passenger/combi version of the C 208B Super Cargomaster and named it the ‘Grand Caravan’.

'It can accommodate up to 14 passengers in a quick-change interior and is very popular in Central and South America'- observes Scott Bengtson from Cessna’s Caravan Product Marketing Department. In these areas the Grand Caravan is King. 'Due to distances involved and contrary to what is happening in Europe we have only sold a single Super Cargomaster in South America as the market isn’t strong enough for pure freight operations. But the Grand Caravan fits in perfectly- with operators flying passengers by day and freight by night. The cabin interior conversion takes half an hour at the most.'

'Some of these aircraft are flying at least five cycles an hour on inter-island schedules. Pilots joke that you can see your destination from your take off point. Passengers for these flights are combinations of tourists and business people-' explained Bengtson. The Grand Caravan has even achieved airplane sales to the People’s Republic of China and more recently two to Russia.

There are also Government Agency and military versions of the Grand Caravan- and according to Cessna these account for about 6.5% of the total of 1-522 aircraft- (around 98 aircraft). The Grand Caravan and Caravan are ideal surveillance platforms- they can loiter at low speeds- but have useful cruise speeds to the target.

'Six of these ‘observation’ aircraft are operated by the FBI-' said Bengtson. 'As it happened their first aircraft went to their New York agency in 1999 and after 9/11 that aircraft was airborne virtually 24 hours per day; it was down just long enough to re-fuel and get a crew change.'

Caravans and Grand Caravans are also popular with Air Arms around the world: the Brazilian Air Force (designated as C-98) has eight; the Chilean Army three; the Malaysian police six; and the Liberian Army one.

Amphibious Caravan

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police took delivery of the first Caravan amphibian- and in some publications this has been wrongly attributed as a Grand Caravan. As Europe’s Cessna Caravan sales guru Bob Crowe- of Bob Crowe Aircraft Sales Ltd- explained- 'There has never been a Grand Caravan amphibian- currently they are not certificated on floats.'

However- Crowe reckons that a bigger engine might eventually be fitted to make an amphibious Grand Caravan possible.

Right- we were getting along quite well here- then in 1998 Cessna decided to rename part of the range. This was brought about by its decision to fit the more powerful 675 shp P&WC PT6A-114A to both short body Caravan models- which are now known as the Caravan 675 and Caravan 675 Amphibian. This brought them in line with the larger Super Cargomaster and Grand Caravan models- which were already fitted with this engine.

Crowe observed that the 600 shp was fine in the short body Caravan models- 'but some operators were attaching floats to these aircraft for sale which increased the aircraft’s weight by around 960 pounds. Because of the extra weight- many float plane operators sent their engines to P&WC to be converted to the higher powered PT6A-114A- 675 shp version.'

 The Caravan 675 (short fuselage) combines the airframe of the 208 with the fully rated engines of the 208B announced at NBAA in September 1997. FAA certification was achieved April 1998 with first delivery that month as an amphibian- to Riversville Aviation Company of New York.

In its sales blurb Cessna says of its Caravan 675 amphibian- 'load it with a generous amount of baggage and/or passengers. Pack extra gear into the floats. Lift off and fly at speeds in excess of 185 mph for more than 500 statute miles at max payload.'

This wheeled floatplane version is the largest single engined floatplane manufactured today. It was certificated in March 1986- and Cessna delivers between 10 and 11 of them annually. They are popular with pilot/owners- companies and charter operators and in many cases are a lifeline in remote areas. The 100th Caravan equipped with Wipaire Wipline 8000 amphibious floats was delivered in May 2000.

Luxury Interiors

In 2004 Cessna decided to introduce a cost effective and speedy way to install a luxury corporate interior for all Caravan variants- except of course for the Super CargoMaster. Cessna have named it ‘Oasis’. It incorporates the latest corporate jet interior ideas- is aimed at the business and pleasure jet sales market- and is fitted by Yingling Aviation Interiors at Wichita.

'There have been probably about 40 Oasis interiors fitted so far- but over 130 executive interior Caravans are flying-' explained Bob Crowe. Capital Aviation- based at Wiley Post Airport- Oklahoma City- has completed the other 90-odd executive interiors and continues to fit them to each owner’s specific requirements.

The luxury Oasis interior can be fitted into the shorter fuselaged Caravan 675 and ’675 amphibian and the larger Grand Caravan. All configurations feature executive seating and can be equipped with a toilet facility with privacy curtains. The seats are finished in plush top-grain leather- and customers have the choice of decorative lower sidewall fabrics and traditional sidewall trim with a veneer accent.

The Oasis version of the Grand Caravan can seat up to eight passengers plus two pilots and the shorter fuselage Caravan 675 up to six passengers. There is four-place club seating with executive sidetables plus extra executive seating according to variant. Bob Crowe delivered the first two ‘Oasis Grand Caravans’ into Europe and two more have recently been sold to Russian customers.

'Our customers took us in the direction towards a standardized corporate interior which still allows variations-' said Bengtson. 'Around three years ago we contacted Yingling Aviation; we approached six different Caravan operators for their input and their interior layouts and choice of fabrics and veneers; this resulted in the Oasis program'. Bengtson says that under the program- finished aircraft are taken across Wichita’s runway to the Yingling facility for completion. The interior fit currently takes between two to three weeks- 'but we are trying to get this down to less than a week. We’re not there yet- but we’re getting pretty close-' he said.

Pathfinder 21

Although not a Cessna program- an even longer bodied Caravan exists in the shape of the prototype Soloy Pathfinder 21. This is a Caravan 208B lengthened by six feet (10ft longer than a 208A) aft of the wing and used by Soloy in conjunction with P&WC as a testbed for the Soloy Dual Pac powerplant. The Dual Pac consists of a pair of P&WC PT6D-114A engines- (developing 1-329 shp at 1700 rpm) driving a single propeller. The Pathfinder certification program is approximately 75-80% complete and the prototype was operated under a market survey experimental certificate for over 300 hours. In addition to the engine installation- the aircraft also has a large ventral pod. The powerplant modification means that an increase in allowable gross weight has increased from 8-750 to 12-480 pounds.

David Stauffer- Soloy’s CEO- says- 'The Pathfinder 21 conversion certification program is currently on hold due to financial considerations. Changes in the regulatory requirements- and economy- have changed the marketability of this aircraft for sale conversion program. The FAA now requires a FAR Part 25 airframe when carrying over nine passengers- and the single engine IFR rules have required us to rethink the future of the Pathfinder 21 program.'

The Pathfinder 21 first flew in 1995 and gained its Supplementary Type Certificate in 1997- but it is believed that the aircraft has not flown since 1999. Perhaps if Cessna ever goes ahead with an amphibious version of the Grand Caravan- the Dual Pac could be a prime candidate to power it.

The Caravan now and into the future

'We plan to deliver 70 Caravans of all types this year which is about normal-' said Cessna Caravan product marketing manager Matt Amsden- 'but we would obviously like to build a few more.'

The 1-500th Caravan of all types was delivered during April at AERO 2005 in Friedrichshafen- Germany to a Polish customer. According to Amsden- the Caravan fleet is running in excess of 60% for export outside the USA which has been the trend for several years.

Said Bob Crowe: 'There are nearly 60 Caravans operating within the EU. Around 18 are Cessna Super Cargomaster- eight of which will shortly be operating in Spain. There are 30 Grand Caravans- of which six are Oasis kitted- and ten Caravan 675s- of which five are Amphibians and two have executive interiors.'

France and Ireland approved single-engined airplanes for sale public transport day/night SE-IMC cargo operations back in 1989- and it is now also approved in Denmark- Finland- Norway- Spain and Sweden. However- Europe still awaits blanket approval from the JAA/EASA across the whole EU.

At the start of 2005 there was great optimism from European operators and aircraft manufacturers that this would be the year when the legislation would finally appear in the rulebooks. Not so- it has been further delayed! But Bob Crowe- who has been following this saga intimately- is more optimistic than some. 'The NPA (Notice of Proposed Amendment) has now been made compliant with EASA Maintenance and ICAO recommendations. We understand that it should be presented to the JAA Committee in March 2006- so hopefully we may see some progress early next year.'

More immediate news is that- as this article was being prepared- the Greek authorities were due to approve SE-IMC within its airspace- and the French DGAC was close to approving SE-IMC for the carriage of fare paying passengers. This can only help further Caravan sales in Europe.

From Cessna’s H.Q. in Wichita- Matt Amsden has the last word. 'Business is good – there are a lot of airplane sales both internationally and domestically. The corporate/private jet sales market has been doing really well – on-demand charter market and combi market are all helping sales. Our philosophy for the future is to continue listening to our customers. Wherever the customer takes us- we will make the case.'

More information from www.cessna.com

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