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Beechcraft Denali Takes Flight

Denali Tests New GE Catalyst Powerplant, The First Clean-Sheet Turboprop in 50 Years

The Beechcraft Denali took flight today, marking its first test with the new GE Catalyst turbine engine. The milestone is a major step for the all new, all original design. With a single turboprop, spacious pressurized cabin, economic fuel burn, and advanced avionics, Textron hopes to dominate the market when released. If development proceeds without issue, Beechcraft hopes to see certification sometime in 2023. 

The Denali was flown by senior test pilot Peter Gracey and chief test pilot Dustin Smisor on a mid morning jaunt from the company's west campus at Eisenhower International Airport in Wichita, Kansas. The duo tested the aircraft's performance, stability, maneuverability, controllability throughout the nearly 3-hour flight. Assessing the propulsion, environmental, flight controls, and avionics systems, the aircraft reached an altitude of 15,600 feet and a top speed of 180 knots. Gracey came away from the adventure impressed, saying “From the beginning of the flight to the end, the Denali was simply flawless. It’s just a great aircraft to fly. 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.”


The Textron subsidiary inherited the project from the original Single Engine Turboprop, unveiled in 2015 with a goal of taking on the market dominance of the Pilatus PC-12 and Daher-Socata TBM series. Increasing fuel costs, insurance, and upkeep have bolstered the case for a single-engine aircraft, and the legendary reliability of well developed, but aging turbine engines. Everyone's favorite turboprop powerplant, the PT6, began design work in 1964. Despite the industry's best efforts, its inherent design limitations have hampered improvements in fuel efficiency, noise reduction, and modernized accoutrements. General Electric wants to take up the mantle of the classic system and establish their company as the cornerstone of next-gen turbines in creating their GE Catalyst. Announced with the Denali as the launch aircraft, the Catalyst is the first clean-sheet engine of its type in more than 50 years. 

“Today’s landmark flight is not only a significant occasion for the Denali, it’s a truly great moment for our employees, our suppliers and the customers who will be flying this aircraft,” said Ron Draper, Textron Aviation CEO. “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. Today’s flight is just the beginning for what we anticipate will be a long list of important accomplishments as we prepare the aircraft for certification and customer deliveries.”



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