The Mighty Cessna Caravan

May 13, 2020 | Aviation news

An aircraft that has mastered operations in deserts, jungle strips, aquadromes and been used for commuter, cargo and executive travel, it is a machine that has truly personified versatility. The brainchild of John Berwick, it was approved and manufactured by Cessna and FAA certified in Oct 1984(Rodengen, Fernandez and Lieber, 2007). Since then, more than 3000 caravans have been built in the past 34 years with over 3 million flight hours logged, transforming air transportation in that sector irrevocably.

Originally built to be used as a cargo transporter, the strutted high-wing, aircraft was designed to carry 304 cubic feet of load in its unpressurized cabin with a fixed tricycle landing gear. This was an instant hit with FedEx who have since been the biggest customer for the caravans, currently operating 260 caravans in their fleet(Goyer, 2008). Over time, the caravan evolved into the highly-sought after utilitarian premium turboprop today.

Figure 1: Cessna Caravan 208

The Cessna Caravan 208 can be used for cargo, passenger charter as well be used an aquaplane such as the one depicted here with WIPLINE 8000 floats.

Figure 4: PT6A-114 engine
Figure 2: Cessna Grand Caravan 208B

The Cessna Grand Caravan 208B saw a structural improve as well with the fuselage being 4ft longer than the caravan and is certified for 14-passenger commuter seating..

All Grand Caravans post-production 2008 have the G1000 avionics suite installed value adding the aircraft. (Goyer, 2008).

Figure 5: PT6A-114A Engine
Figure 3: Cessna Grand Caravan Ex

The Grand Caravan Ex is the latest version of the Grand Caravan with a more powerful engine that provided a better climb rate and a greater payload.

Figure 6: Pt6A-140 Engine
3 popular civilian variations exist of the caravan personified by their Pratt and Whitney PT6A engines. The original Cessna caravan used the PT6A-114 engine which provided roughly 600 hp before the PT6A-114A engine was used as a variant providing more power for the Grand Caravan 208B(Federal Aviation Authority, US Department of Transportation, 2012). The choice of the PT6A-140 engine in the Grand Caravan Ex increased the payload, climb rate(36% increase) and cruise speed of the aircraft(Aero, 2020). Ideal for the multi-role aircraft, this improvement gained more followers desiring a faster cruise speed and increased payload.
While the number of roles for the caravan vary from passenger charter to military aircraft firing hellfire missiles, a popular use for the aircraft are on grass strips in the middle of the bush in Africa, Australia and Indonesia(Private Air Charters, 2020). Nearly a decade ago, Cessna teamed up with Yingling interiors to release a new VIP-executive Caravan interiors named ‘’Oasis’’ that was an instant hit with its consumers(Yingling Interiors: – Yingling Aviation, 2020). A perfect fit for high-end exclusive operations such as VIP transfers or luxury safaris in the African bush such as that used by Scenic Air Safaris or Government’s Camp in Kenya.
Figure 7: The Oasis Interior as offered by Yingling Aviation in partnership with Cessna
Hamish Makhema of the Mission Aviation Fellowship(MAF) is one of many pilots that have chosen to fly in remote Indonesia supplying villages and its residents with medicine, access to good food as well staples such as construction material(Makhema, 2020). Hamish flies to locations such as Wamena in Papua in MAF’s Cessna Grand Caravan 208B carrying 14 passengers with medical supplies loaded in the cargo pod which has a 111.5 cubic feet of space. For many in the mountaineous undulating terrain such as in Wamena, receiving time-sensitive aid such as medical supplies and food is only possible through aircraft deliveries such as the one carried out by MAF(Makhema, 2020).
Figure 9: A Cessna Grand Caravan EX Amphibian glides through in Ha Long Bay.
When asked why he prefers the Cessna Caravan over other similar aircraft, Mr Makhema states,

The Cessna Caravan is a stand-out performer with its STOL capabilities especially in the bush where landing on strips with a 10% incline and 400m length becomes simple . More profitable than the Porter(Pilatus), comfortable and easy to fly – it is second to none out here!

Hamish Makhema

Pilot, Mission Aviation Fellowship(MAF)

Figure 8: Example of a Runway strip in Wamena, Papua
There have been many an aircraft that have stunned and thrilled users but for it to be able to dominate the market it needs to be sustainable economically, as well. This is where the caravan is par excellence. With an hourly operational cost of just under USD900 per hour(Global, 2020), the aircraft becomes invaluable as a choice for a utility/charter/special missions. While there are many other single turboprops that deliver similar power and comfort, there are none that compare to the versatility and economy of the Cessna caravan. This is important as operators can switch from utility to high-density passenger in very little time to ensure a wide variety of operations as well as profitability.

Article written by:

Anantha Krishna

Anantha Krishna

Asia Pacific Regional Director

References

Aero, S., 2020. Caravan PT6A-140 Engine Upgrade. [ebook] Available at: <http://www.standardaero.com/Portals/0/Documents/Engines/PrattWhitney/StandardAero%20-%20Caravan%20PT6A-140%20Engine%20Upgrade.pdf> [Accessed 17 May 2020].

Federal Aviation Authority, US Department of Transportation, 2012. TYPE CERTIFICATE DATA SHEET E4EA. -: FAA, pp.2,3.

Global, S., 2020. Ownership And Operating Costs | CESSNA 208 Caravan. [online] Aircraftcostcalculator.com. Available at: <https://www.aircraftcostcalculator.com/AircraftOperatingCosts/3/Cessna+208+Caravan> [Accessed 17 May 2020].

Goyer, R., 2008. [online] Available at: <https://www.flyingmag.com/pilot-reports/turboprops/cessna-caravan-perfected/> [Accessed 17 May 2020].

Makhema, H., 2020. Interview Of The Mighty Caravan.

Rodengen, J., Fernandez, E. and Lieber, A., 2007. The Legend Of Cessna. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Write Stuff Enterprises.

Scenicairsafaris.com. 2020. Private Air Charters. [online] Available at: <http://www.scenicairsafaris.com/private-air-charters> [Accessed 17 May 2020].

Yingling Aviation. 2020. Yingling Interiors: – Yingling Aviation. [online] Available at: <https://www.yinglingaviation.com/department/yingling-interiors/> [Accessed 17 May 2020].