Air Transport World

Caravan I revives interest in single-engine commuter utility craft.

Caravan I revives interest in single-engine commuter utility craft

After years of almost exclusive concentration on multi-engine powered commuter transports, commuter industry attention is now being focused on a new single-engine passenger/cargo utility plane entering service with U.S. operators. It is Cessna's Caravan I, a key factor in Federal Express' small plane feeder plan.

Of prime interest to small package carriers and commuter airline managements is the Caravan's service application to Federal Express as a short-haul cargo feeder to its U.S. regional jet pickup centers.

Cessna claims the "One' is the modernday replacement for the venerable Douglas DC-3. Although this claim has been rebutted by old Gooney Bird champions, observers do agree that the company's new product is demonstrating high-utility and productivity potentials.

First and foremost the new Cessna, known as the 208 series, will, according to the company, carry 3,000 lbs. of cargo for one and a half hours--approximately 200-250 miles--under FAR/IFR rules at a direct operating cost of $1 per mile.

Meeting promised parameters

Dale Simpson, president, Mountain Air Cargo of Denver, N.C., the first of three Federal Express contract operators of the 208A, told ATW that "the new bird is meeting all fuel consumption and performance parameters promised by Cessna.' He said new plane gripes are negligible.

The toughest job for many small-package high-priority cargo operators, says Simpson, is to rationalize the wide differential between the first cost of the new plane ($600,000-plus) against the $50,000 price tag of a good used Beech 18. He says, "The increased productivity and operational reliability should make it (the 208) profitable for Federal Express in short order. …

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