Unlocking New Horizons: Blackhawk Transforms Cessna Caravan with More PT6 Power

Sitting in a Cessna Caravan is an experience that blends the grandeur of a larger aircraft with the familiarity of a smaller one. The Cessna Caravan, launched in the early 1980s, has always been a paradox—a spacious turboprop with the feel of a smaller plane. Recently, Blackhawk demonstrated a significant transformation in the Grand Caravan, breathing new life into this classic with the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-140 engine, boasting 867 shp for enhanced takeoff, climb, and cruise capabilities.

In aviation, the mantra “more is better” holds true, but only when it’s just right. The Grand Caravan, known for its impressive load-carrying capabilities and unpressurized cockpit, received a power boost with the PT6A-140 engine. Blackhawk’s goal was to showcase the remarkable difference this engine upgrade made to an already iconic aircraft.

The Grand Caravan, with its oversized dimensions and robust design, has become a symbol of versatility. It can tackle challenging airstrips with ease, making it a favorite among operators requiring both performance and cost-effectiveness. Interestingly, the Caravan’s flight characteristics resemble those of a big Cessna Skylane, defying expectations with its agile handling despite its size and weight.

Responding to demands for even more power, Cessna certified the Grand Caravan EX, featuring the PT6A-140 turboprop. Blackhawk took this a step further by obtaining the STC for retrofitting existing Grand Caravans with the PT6A-140 engine, offering a performance upgrade for models equipped with PT6A-114 or PT6A-114A engines.

The installation, a testament to Blackhawk’s commitment to excellence, reuses the original cowling and exhaust system with slight modifications. The Hartzell three-blade prop and a more powerful starter-generator contribute to improved engine performance. While the upgrade adds around 120 pounds to the aircraft, the benefits are substantial, providing owners with the performance of a new 208 EX at a significant cost savings.

The economics of the Blackhawk conversion are compelling. With an exchange program cost of approximately $620,000, including installation, aircraft owners can enjoy enhanced performance without the hefty price tag of a new Grand Caravan EX. The program allows owners to trade in their current engines, providing a credit that further offsets the cost.

During a test flight of the newly re-engined Caravan, the performance differences were vividly apparent. The PT6A-140-powered aircraft demonstrated significantly shorter takeoff distances compared to its predecessors. Climbing at an impressive rate, the Caravan showcased its capabilities, maintaining over 1,500 feet per minute climb-up through 6,500 feet.

While the Caravan isn’t typically hailed as a speedster, the PT6A-140 modification elevates its cruising speed. Flying at 5,000 feet and 10 degrees Celsius hotter than standard conditions, the upgraded Caravan achieved a true airspeed of 191 knots, surpassing previous models. Although fuel burn increased, the improvements in takeoff, climb, and cruise justify the trade-off.

The Blackhawk conversion might not be suitable for every Caravan owner due to the associated costs. However, for operators seeking a power upgrade without the need for a brand-new aircraft, the Blackhawk solution emerges as a practical and value-driven choice. The transformation not only enhances aircraft performance but also aligns with the spirit of empowerment and passion that defines the aviation community.