Cessna Textron Aviation
BAN's World GazetteerDenmark
For this month's 'Me and My Aircraft' feature we took an unscientific straw-poll of EBAN's readers with single engine turboprop aircraft.
Operation of this category of aircraft in IMC or night conditions continues to be an issue, with rules varying from country to country. EASA is expected to introduce a new pan-European regulation on this topic at some stage. Meanwhile, many EBAN readers are enjoying the reliability and excellent performance of these highly efficient machines.
The venerable Cessna Caravan is going strong after 30 years, having first flown in August 1982. Variants are currently active in at least 26 countries across Europe and the Middle East. The largest contingent of owner/operators is in Germany, while the largest operational fleets are those of parachuting and aerial survey specialists Customised Air Support (CAE Aviation) in Luxembourg, and Caravan operator, service station and sales company BenAir in Denmark.
The original Caravan I was extended to create the Grand Caravan, Grand Caravan Pod and the Super Cargomaster, and is now available as the Caravan 675 and Amphibian.
BenAir owns and operates a diverse fleet of twin turboprops and jets, but has built a substantial part of its business on the Caravan, on which it has 18 years and 70,000 flight hours of experience. As a Caravan service station, BenAir reports that the manufacturer is always very supportive. "Cessna's new main-tenance programme – with an inspection interval every 200 hours – should allow us soon to become even more flexible and competitive," says Bruno Budim.
He says he is frustrated that EASA has delayed permission to allow single engine turbine commercial operations in IMC and at night, even though statistical evidence demonstrates higher safety than comparable light twin aircraft. "I am very satisfied with the Caravan's high dispatch reliability, which is thanks to a sturdy and simple design as well as proven components, assemblies and engine."
He believes the Caravan is versatile, reliable and offers low direct operating costs and a very low depreciation rate. "It is a combination of a simple, efficient and versatile concept, backed up by a reliable manufacturer and support organisation and a market demand that contributes to a very low depreciation rate over time," he says.
"It is a pretty accomplished package, nonetheless there are a few engine upgrade programmes now which cover what was maybe the only weak point – in particular when operating in cold areas or for activities such as para-dropping."
Capt Ashraf Mahgoub of Egyptian company ANKA Aviation is the proud operator of a nine-year-old Super Cargo Master version of the Caravan. He is satisfied with the aircraft's support, reliability and capabilities, which are ideal for ANKA's short-haul low cargo volume routes.
Mahgoub's only wish would be for a bit more speed, and a longer interval between overhauls and hot section inspections.
Sebastien Menut is a partner in a French group that owns a Caravan 675. He reports that maintenance support for the type is "very good, at Cessna prices – meaning lower then the competition, but very bad on the other hand with regards to the known weak points of the aircraft, such as the exhaust." He adds:
"As long as you do not have exhaust problems it is a real workhorse. It is not a true STOL aircraft, however it does offer the best balance between speed, load and STOL capabilities.
"It is a known, proven and easy to operate aircraft. It is easy to modify the cabin from passenger to skydiving/freight/aerial work in the blink of an eye for extra contracts during the low season."
Menut would like to see a resolution to his ongoing difficulties with the exhaust system, and reports having had to change it three times in the past 18 months with the associated down time and labour costs.
Upgrades which would appeal to him include additional power with Garrett and Blackhawk 900hp STCs for speed/climb improvement, and the wing modifications from Arctic Aerospace which improve the STOL capabilities.
"We do operate commercially for skydiving centres with the aircraft being made available during the winter season either in a passenger or freight version, but with little success so far on those modes being rather new operators with this model," says Menut. The company previously operated a Pilatus PC-6 and made the switch in order to have more capacity.
"The upgrades are not a true 'wish' as they would be too expensive so far for our business model, but could be an option when we need to boost capacity again," he says. "We had to switch from the Porter to the Caravan for that reason but could avoid switching again to another model next time as we really do appreciate the maintenance costs reduction of the Caravan against others."
Piper PA46 Meridian
Registered in 22 countries around Europe, and especially popular in Germany and Switzerland, the Meridian is the turboprop version of the Piper PA46 Malibu aircraft. Only a handful of companies, aside from dealerships, have more than one of the type.
Piston-powered PA46 Malibu and Mirage aircraft can be converted to turboprop power with a JetPROP upgrade.
Both our readers who replied with their experience of the Piper Meridian wished to remain anonymous – but both are very satisfied with the aircraft's maintenance support, dispatch reliability and operating capabilities.
The first flies a PA46-500TP with Avidyne/Entegra and is most impressed with the cost/ performance for a typical three to four person trip. Parts availability at Piper lets the aircraft down, he feels. The most desirable upgrade would be "worldwide satellite weather instead of just Nexrad."
The second has a PA46 JetPROP DLX turboprop conversion and specifically enjoys its economics and ease of operation. The worst thing is its payload.
Based in Scandinavia, he finds that when the wing tanks are cold he needs to use Prist anti-icing fuel additives at all times for safe operations. "Pilots taller than about 185 cm will not be comfortable in the cockpit, and the cabin heat is not adequate unless you put some extra insulation under the floor mat," he adds.
One each in Sweden and Switzerland, and two in the UK: The PAC 750XL is used in Europe exclusively for skydiving operations. The aircraft is currently marketed by its New Zealand manufacturer as the P-750 XSTOL with a new and improved four-blade propeller.
Martin Lindstrom of Skydive Sweden is satisfied with the maintenance support and reliability of his PAC 750XL and very satisfied with its operating capabilities and value-for-money. "The low operational cost in combination with long maintenance intervals is the best thing," he says. "The worst is the poor design of flap system which creates frequent unscheduled maintenance situations.
"However, the PAC 750XL is probably the most optimised aircraft available today for skydiving operation," he adds.
With the exception of the Jetfly Aviation fleet of five, TBM700/850 series aircraft in Europe are single-aircraft operations. The French government has a large number, but the bulk are in use for business and private transport missions. Many are operated on the US register, whatever their home country.
One of a dozen or more TBM700/850 owners in France responded anonymously to our survey, reporting himself very satisfied with every aspect of his 700C2 model. He believes it provides good speed for its operating costs, but that the new aircraft price tag is high. In common with most TBM700 owners, he would like to have the 850hp of the latest model under the bonnet and the G1000 on the flightdeck.
Dutch owner Frans Bakker is also satisfied with the maintenance support available for his TBM850, and its value-for-money; and very satisfied with its reliability and operating capabilities. "The best thing is that it is fast, easy to fly, and has reasonable operating costs," he says. "I have the pilot door, which is very useful for 'larger' pilots!"
Frederic Caussarieu of Voldirect SAS has the TBM850 model with G1000. "The maintenance is rather expensive, but well carried out by the manufacturer. However, maintenance every 100 hours is less attractive than a VLJ with a 400 hour programme," he points out.
He has encountered no dispatch reliability problems, and has found the aircraft to be very reliable in any weather. On his wish-list is WX reception on board in Europe.
Dierk Reuter of Liton LLP also has the current model TBM850, and reports himself well satisfied with it. "The best thing is that it is fast while being able to land on short runways, and reliable," he says. "The worst thing is the regulatory restrictions, which should be on a par with twin turboprops."
His most desirable upgrade: cabin heat.
Oddly we did not receive any feedback from owners of the Pilatus PC-12, despite there being EBAN readers with the aircraft in no fewer than 21 countries around Europe.
PC-12s continue to appear in increasing numbers on the Isle of Man register, indicating that they have a strong presence in the business/ personal transport sector.
Most are operated as sole aircraft, but there are fleets of PC-12s in the hands of the Government of Finland, Dexter Air Taxi in Russia, and Jetfly Aviation in Switzerland.
Pilatus has delivered over 1,200 PC-12s since its introduction in 1994. The worldwide fleet has amassed 3.3 million flight hours of operating experience, including thousands of hours in some of the world's harshest environments.
Dexter Air Taxi is the first nationwide air taxi company in Russia offering on-demand flights to any operational airport within 2,000 km range. The company was founded in 2004, and has its own maintenance base in Bykovo airport (Moscow). It employs 110 people including 24 pilots.