Textron Aviation’s Cessna SkyCourier is primed for entry into the European regional connectivity market with its new passenger variant. LARA sat down with Lannie O’Bannion, Senior Vice President, Global Sales and Flight Operations at Textron Aviation, for an exclusive chat about the SkyCourier and, later, viewed the aircraft while it awaited the last leg of a 19-day European tour.
First launched as a freighter aircraft, the Cessna SkyCourier was developed in close collaboration with launch customer FedEx. Now, the aircraft has been adapted to seat 19 passengers with a maximum payload of 5,000 lb, featuring two wing-mounted Pratt & Whitney PT6A-65SC turboprop engines and the McCauley Propeller C779.
According to Lannie O’Bannion, the choice to introduce the passenger variant was influenced by significant demand. “When we started the design, we always had the passenger version in mind,” he said, “all along from the design of the SkyCourier, which we partnered with FedEx to develop the aircraft [so it could] take three LD3 containers.”
The passenger variant has already achieved FAA certification and is expected to reach its target of EASA certification by the middle of 2025, he added.
Textron delivered the first passenger SkyCourier to Western Aircraft back in May 2023, to be operated by Western Aircraft’s luxury regional carrier Lāna’i Air for business flights connecting Hawaii’s Oahu to the island of Lāna’i.
The Wichita-based manufacturer is also targeting a number of markets where the SkyCourier might be applicable, having discussions with airlines, charter operators as well as private and corporate shuttle operators.
As part of the SkyCourier’s versatile design, operators will be able to perform quick conversions between both the passenger and cargo variants, taking an hour and a half for a full conversion.
The scope of the SkyCourier could also extend beyond passenger and cargo capabilities, added the Textron SVP, who believes the aircraft could provide a platform for special mission applications such as carrying medevac or surveillance equipment.
Textron feels positive that the SkyCourier has the potential to deliver:
“We’re seeing strong demand globally for this aircraft because it has the ability to fulfil many missions, passenger or cargo,” concluded O’Bannion. “The versatility of doing both, or even a combi version – where you can take passengers and still take a sizeable amount of payload to meet those missions.”
Images: LARA – Cessna SkyCourier passenger variant at Jersey Airport ahead of its final flight home to Textron Aviation’s base in Wichita, Kansas.