Cessna tests new “Skycourier” and it’s actually not too terrible

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Chilton

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There was actually a successful airline that did this for decades in Europe. It’s was called “Flybe”.

Turboprops actually cost half as much as jets per seat mile. So they had extremely impressive prices and could operate out of otherwise unprofitable airports.

They went under because it’s operating loans were in dollars but it’s income was in local currency. When the local currencies all dropped compared to the dollar they went bankrupt.

Flybe went under because of leases on fancy Embraer jets which looked good but were uneconomical on their routes, proof of the point really.
Blue Islnds, Logan Air and Eastern Airrlines will probably pick up the routes, and the common factor with all three is the ATR 72 either all or most of the fleet.
Back on the topic of the Cessna Sky Courier many of the small carriers in Tanzania and Kenya were looking at the project as a replacement for the Twin Otter or upgrade from the Caravan when I left last year, cheaper than the DHC 6 and better costs than the Van if you have the loads, I suspect the current virus issues will put that back by a few years for most until travel picks up again.
 

wktaylor

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Dogzilla… be aware that the 408 prototype is in ground check-out phase... turning engines powering/operating systems/mechanics, taxiing, etc. It will be awhile until 1st flight.

BTW... I am personally NOT enthused that this Acft has a high wing combined with a T-Tail.

Projected performance numbers and payload look good...
 

Doggzilla

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Here is an article about the Flybe failure for anyone interested.

They tried to go with jets but canceled the order when they found out the fuel consumption was far higher than advertised. This lost them a few million.

Then when the Pound dropped massively they couldn’t afford to pay their loans in dollars. Which kicked the chair out from under them.

 

TFF

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Another consideration might be insurance. They might be wanting to put two in the cockpit. Single pilot Caravans is an oddity that might not fit the pressures of business.
 

Turd Ferguson

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Separately, I wonder if/when passenger turboprops will take over from the regional jets for sub-400 NM trips. Fuel won't be cheap forever, and passengers have proven they are price sensitive. I'll bet they'd stay in the sardine can for an extra hour to save $50. I would.
Unfortunately, in the US public perception is kinda down on turboprops and it's doubtful an airline could/would throw out a fare for $50 less.

I don't see any major airline in this country allowing turboprop to fly with their airline brand painted on the side anytime in the foreseeable future.
 

Vigilant1

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Unfortunately, in the US public perception is kinda down on turboprops ...
Very true. I don't mind 'em, but the comments I hear in the departure gate area certainly support what you say. I'd be happy to put up with a little more noise and vibration for a few extra inches of seat width and pitch (which could be provided at little cost in performance on a 200 kt turboprop). Those old Convairs with their Barcalounger-like seats--that's a civilized way to travel by air.
 

Angusnofangus

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Separately, I wonder if/when passenger turboprops will take over from the regional jets for sub-400 NM trips. Fuel won't be cheap forever, and passengers have proven they are price sensitive. I'll bet they'd stay in the sardine can for an extra hour to save $50. I would.
It seems to me that there are a lot of Q400's serving that sub-400 NM market.
 

Topaz

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Putting my ignorance on display, but I grew up near an airport (KPOC) that became a FedEX and UPS node in their overnight runs. Late evening would see a slow string of Caravans, and other light-cargo aircraft, coming in, being hand offloaded onto trucks, and then leaving again. Now, of course, the goal seems to be to use standard cargo containers and just shift them from the airplane to a truck using a transporter that can change height to match the airplane's cargo bay, and then drive over to the truck, lower or raise, and then they just push the cargo pod into the truck.

Nice, but I've always been curious why they don't take it a step further: Make the airplane have either a swinging nose, or clamshell tail with C-119-like booms, and "kneeling" landing gear (Like a C-5 or C-17) that adjusts to the height of the truck bed. Back the truck up to the open cargo door just like the bay at the warehouse, loadmaster on the plane adjusts the gear height from inside the airplane's bay, and you slide the cargo containers from airplane to truck (or vice-versa) without the need for a separate vehicle. I mean, if you're going to be custom-designing an aircraft for your cargo operation anyway, why not go the full nine yards?

Like I said, since I have exactly zero experience with aircraft cargo operations, I'm sure I'm missing something vital, but this seems like it'd be a big cost-saver in the long-run. Yes, the airplane takes a bit of a weight penalty for the "kneeling" landing gear, especially, but the system would be much faster and wouldn't require pre-positioned "transporters" to shuffle cargo between airplane and truck at every airport.

What am I missing?
 

Vigilant1

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Putting my ignorance on display, but I grew up near an airport (KPOC) that became a FedEX and UPS node in their overnight runs. Late evening would see a slow string of Caravans, and other light-cargo aircraft, coming in, being hand offloaded onto trucks, and then leaving again. Now, of course, the goal seems to be to use standard cargo containers and just shift them from the airplane to a truck using a transporter that can change height to match the airplane's cargo bay, and then drive over to the truck, lower or raise, and then they just push the cargo pod into the truck.

Nice, but I've always been curious why they don't take it a step further: Make the airplane have either a swinging nose, or clamshell tail with C-119-like booms, and "kneeling" landing gear (Like a C-5 or C-17) that adjusts to the height of the truck bed. ...
What am I missing?
I don't know for sure, but I suspect there's a strong preference for puting the extra weight and complexity in the ground equipment rather than the plane (especially as they can count on having the right equipment wherever they need it). On the C-5, the landing gear is notoriously troublesome--they think long and hard before kneeling the plane at remote locations.
Does the new Cessna even have retractable gear? The pictures show it with the gear down, no visible doors. Simple, utilitarian. A truck.
ETA: Some Soviet cargo acft (Cub, An-12) had an internal overhead crane on a gantry rail that could be extended out back to pick up cargo and bring it inside. The US favored floor rollers.
 
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Hephaestus

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Alaska Airlines flies a whole whack of Q400's.
scAir Canada and WestJet both have expanded their turboprop ends in recent years. AC and subsidiary companies seem to be running more of the dash8 etc now and phasing out the bombardier CRJs...
 

Angusnofangus

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scAir Canada and WestJet both have expanded their turboprop ends in recent years. AC and subsidiary companies seem to be running more of the dash8 etc now and phasing out the bombardier CRJs...
I think that the Q400 is probably a better fit on a lot of routes than CRJ. Cheaper to run, reasonably fast, and comfortable. I've spent several two hour legs in one and they were fine.
 

Riggerrob

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Dear Topaz,
You almost described the experimental Farichild XC-120 Pack Plane (late 1940s). It was a variation on the familiar C-82 and C-119 Flying Boxcars. They planned to build a bunch of spare cargo panniers (about the same size as modern ISO 120 shipping containers and leave them on the cargo apron. An arriving XC-120 would drop one container at the south end of the cargo apron, then taxi over top of a second container laying on the north end of the cargo apron ... winch up the new container and take-off.

Sikorsky also tried this with their Skycrane helicopter, but military operators usually preferred to sling cargo. Modern civilian Skycranes strap on specialized containers for firefighting.

A modern Pack Plane could use radar or lasers to steer the plane precisely over the new container.

The Skycourier's high wings reduce the number of truck-sized dents.
Wing struts discourage ground crew from walking into spinning propellers.
T-tails are too high to collect truck-sized dents.
 

Victor Bravo

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Nice, but I've always been curious why they don't take it a step further: Make the airplane have either a swinging nose, or clamshell tail with C-119-like booms,
For that matter, what's wrong with the (general) Skyvan configuration, but updated with whatever new engines, and aerodynamic refinements they put into the Cessna?

A small retractable hydraulic "foot" can be used at the rear to keep the fuselage level, and the cargo boxes rolled straight out of a truck and into the airplane on roller tracks. I'm sure they have load cells that can be built into the floor to automatically calculate the CG, surely the larger military transports have that already?
 

Topaz

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Dear Topaz,
You almost described the experimental Farichild XC-120 Pack Plane (late 1940s). It was a variation on the familiar C-82 and C-119 Flying Boxcars. They planned to build a bunch of spare cargo panniers (about the same size as modern ISO 120 shipping containers and leave them on the cargo apron. An arriving XC-120 would drop one container at the south end of the cargo apron, then taxi over top of a second container laying on the north end of the cargo apron ... winch up the new container and take-off.

Sikorsky also tried this with their Skycrane helicopter, but military operators usually preferred to sling cargo. Modern civilian Skycranes strap on specialized containers for firefighting.

A modern Pack Plane could use radar or lasers to steer the plane precisely over the new container.

The Skycourier's high wings reduce the number of truck-sized dents.
Wing struts discourage ground crew from walking into spinning propellers.
T-tails are too high to collect truck-sized dents.
Also the Lockheed "Flatbed" concept of the 1980's: Lockheed Flatbed - Wikipedia

But no, rather than a detachable pod (although that might work very well with intermodal containers!), I was thinking of something much more like the C-119 or any of the 1950's cargo airplanes with noses that swung completely aside. The airplane's gear would be height-adjustable to match the bed-height of the truck delivering or picking up the standard cargo containers, and you just roll-on/roll-off directly between truck and aircraft. Put a couple of cargo-bay buffers on the lower lip of the airplane cargo bay and, with the nose or the rear full-width doors wide open, just back the truck right up to the airplane.

Something like you describe could be an airplane that would roll right over an intermodal container on a truck, winch it up against the bottom of the aircraft between the booms, clip on a nose cone and tail cone, and head for the runway. You'd have a drag penalty from the ribbing on the side of the container, but the convenience and quick-turn might be worth the extra fuel.
 

TFF

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Passengers still perceive props as flying DC6s. They don’t understand a Jet is turning the prop. Can’t beat the cost of a turboprop. I worked for a Regional that went from SAABs and Jetstreams to CRJs. It was all union and company politics that made the 50 seat ones a requirement. 70 seats seems the profit line. Our SAABs and J31s were subsidized which is the only way they are profitable at the sub 35 seat range. Seat mile money is low because they don’t go far. I learned airlines don’t make money flying passengers. Side dealings make the money; airline provide capital.

Fed Ex made their business by buying used airplanes. They do buy new planes, but if they were not running out of parts, they would still be flying 727s. A friend unwrapped a part in 1963 newspaper once. Don’t think they don’t have their eyes on a whole bunch of cheap 737s that need a home right now. Airplanes break, so fancy stuff breaks extra fancy. Extra stuff weighs something, it has to be more profitable to put up with it, than a person. If they can fit five extra boxes on, that probably payed for that person putting them on.
I’m smack in the middle of FedExdom. The founder lives about a 1/2 mile away. Although 30 years apart, I went to the same high school as him. I’m one of maybe a dozen A&Ps in the city that don’t work there.
 

Mad MAC

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A nasty taste in your mouth can linger for a long time.
That wasn't a single engine turbo prop, it was a twin engine single propeller concept that involved a new engine gearbox and airframe (& we all know what a new engine and airframe means). That monstrosity is apparently why FedEx won't order off the drawing board except from established players (apprently there was some FedEx money lost when it all folded up).

The Skycourier's high wings reduce the number of truck-sized dents.
Wing struts discourage ground crew from walking into spinning propellers.
T-tails are too high to collect truck-sized dents
I wonder if they looked a swing tail, the extra large cutout size required for a container must mean a swing tail starts to look attractive weightwise (plus if you swing the tail and aircrew back the aircraft up to the unloading point one is likely to suffer less damage).
 

Chilton

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Fedex might prefer a swing tail, but Cessna will sell a lot more of these to other operators even if Fedex is the launch customer. I suspect Cessna will want a design that is going to be popular with other operators as well.
 
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