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Beechcraft Denali makes first flight

Textron Aviation Inc. unveiled the aircraft powered by a single Catalyst engine from GE Aviation in 2016, later shifting the program from the Cessna brand over to Beechcraft. The turboprop is designed to cruise at up to 285 knots carrying up to 1,100 pounds of payload with full fuel, the company noted in a November 23 press release announcing completion of the milestone flight by Gracey and chief test pilot Dustin Smisor. They departed Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport around 8:20 a.m. and flew for nearly three hours, testing flight stability and control, propulsion, and avionics during a flight that reached 15,600 feet.

Gracey elaborated: “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 Denali is the first aircraft fitted with the GE Catalyst engine, Textron noted, an engine that burns 20 percent less fuel than turboprops currently in service. The 1,300 shaft horsepower are subject to full-authority digital engine control, and a single lever controls the pitch of the 105-inch McCauley five-blade composite propeller, and power. A Garmin G3000 avionics suite is standard, and the autothrottle is integrated with the automatic flight control system and flight management system.

The Beechcraft Denali design team took pains to enhance passenger comfort, with a flat-floor cabin that is easily converted between comfort and cargo configurations. The standard configuration of six reclining seats can be switched to a high-density, nine-seat option. The Denali’s design gives it a high-speed cruise range of 1,600 nautical miles with one pilot and four passengers, long enough to fly from Los Angeles to Chicago, New York to Miami, or London to Moscow.

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