Textron Aviation’s single-engine turboprop, the Beechcraft Denali, made its first flight Tuesday (Nov. 23) from the company’s west campus at Eisenhower International Airport in Wichita, Kansas.
With senior test pilot Peter Gracey and chief test pilot Dustin Smisor at the controls, the prototype took off at approximately 8:20 a.m. for the two-hour, 50-minute flight. The crew tested for performance, stability-and-control, as well as systems checks for propulsion, environmental, flight-control and avionics. The aircraft climbed as high as 15,600 feet and recorded speeds of up to 180 knots.
“It’s just a great aircraft to fly,” said Gracey. “The Catalyst engine was outstanding, and the aircraft performed to the levels we were anticipating. First flights really can’t go more smoothly than this. We are really off to an excellent start for the Denali flight test program.”
It’s unusual for a developmental airframe to be powered by a developmental engine, but the Denali is the first aircraft to use GE’s Catalyst, a modern-design challenger to the decades-long dominance of Pratt & Whitney’s ubiquitous PT6A series. The 1,300-shaft-horsepower turboprop incorporates a range of new manufacturing techniques, including additive manufacturing, and digital technologies, such as single-lever engine/propeller actuation and full authority digital engine control (FADEC). GE says the Catalyst will consume up to 20 percent less fuel than “older turboprop technologies.” Like the company’s other aircraft, the Denali can also use sustainable aviation fuel.
Ron Draper, president and CEO of Textron Aviation, expressed confidence that the Denali will set itself apart from what is a crowded field of successful single-engine turboprops on the market: “With its more environmentally-friendly engine and largest cabin in its class, this is an aircraft that will change the landscape for high-performance single-engine turboprop aircraft.”