Although there have been reports of photos circulating of the Cessna turboprop single test aircraft, these are the first we've seen and we've corresponded with the Wichita engineer who took them last summer with his cellphone. The aircraft does indeed appear to be the "turboprop Mustang" that has been widely rumored and not a re-engined Corvalis as some had suspected. Our engineer/photographer, who also happened to work on the early design of the Columbia/Corvalis, notes there was no provision for a turboprop or pressurization in that design. The apparent use of a modified Mustang fuselage (note the rear door) makes more sense given Cessna's stated goal for the program to be an intermediate step for owner-pilots graduating from the Corvalis to the Mustang. As we reported in Wednesday's AVwebBiz, Cessna is a long way from introducing the turboprop as a finished design and it will not be on display at AOPA Summit next week.
Bob Stangarone, Cessna's VP of Corporate Communications, told AVweb this week the aircraft, N350CE, is an early stage of a program that may or may not result in a conforming aircraft. "What we're flying is neither a prototype nor proof of concept aircraft. It's a technology demonstrator to help us determine how we could best fill the gap between the Corvalis and the Citation Mustang," Stangarone told AVweb. "Any new aircraft introduction would be some time away." Last week, thanks to Plane Fax, we published documents relating to the registration of the test aircraft that indicate the engine is on the small side, putting out only 500 horsepower. All-up weight for a Mustang is 8730 lbs.