• Textron Aviation's Beechcraft Denali prototype during the first flight. (Textron Aviation)
    Textron Aviation's Beechcraft Denali prototype during the first flight. (Textron Aviation)

Yesterday Textron Aviation announced it had conducted the first flight of the prototype Beechcraft Denali single-engined turbo-prop.

The Denali prototype, powered by GE Aviation’s new Catalyst engine, took off at approximately 0820 from Eisenhower National Airport in Wichita, Kansas. During the two-hour and 50-minute flight, the team tested the aircraft’s performance, stability and control, as well as its propulsion, environmental, flight controls and avionics systems.

The aircraft reached an altitude of 15,600 feet and attained speeds of 180 knots.

The flight was a major step in the Denali development and the continuing name of Beechcraft. It is thought to be the first clean-sheet design to wear the Beechcraft name since the short-lived Beech Starship of 1983.

“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, president and CEO, Textron Aviation.

“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 turbo-prop 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.”

At the controls of the Denali were Senior Test Pilot Peter Gracey and Chief Test Pilot Dustin Smisor.

"From the beginning of the flight to the end, the Denali was simply flawless," Gracey said. "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 prototype aircraft, along with two more flight test articles and three full ground-test airframes, will be used to focus on testing aircraft systems, engine, avionics and overall performance.

Designed to achieve cruise speeds of 285 knots and full-fuel payload of 500 kg, the Denali is expected to have a range of 1600 nm at high-speed cruise with one pilot and four passengers and will be able to fly from Los Angeles to Chicago, New York to Miami or London to Moscow.

The Denali is the first aircraft powered with GE’s Catalyst engine, which GE claims burns up to 20% less fuel than older turbo-props and enables the Denali to use sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The FADEC-equipped engine outputs 1300 shaft horsepower.

The company is targeting certification for the Denali in 2023.

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