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Caravan: Cessna's Swiss Army Knife with Wings!

Caravan: Cessna's Swiss Army Knife with Wings!

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Caravan: Cessna's Swiss Army Knife with Wings!

491 pages
6 hours
Oct 14, 2019


Known for being one of the most versatile and robust aircraft ever produced, the Cessna Caravan has become the DC-3 workhorse of our current timesas Cessna nicknames it, a "Swiss Army Knife with wings"! This pilot favorite does it all, on land or sea: bush flying, geophysical exploration and mapping, patrol, air ambulance, military, sightseeing, corporate, commuter airline, skydiving, cargo, missionary and humanitarian flying, and much more. The Caravan's almost legendary reputation of safety and reliability remains a comforting constant for those who affectionately refer to the aircraft as their flying SUV,” Suburban with a turbine,” or aerial truck.”

From its coverage of the Caravan's colorful history to its innovative-yet-conventional aircraft systems, to interesting pilot stories, tips, and beautiful photography throughout, Lewis and Cook's book is both entertaining and enlighteningCaravan edutainment at its best! The chapters parallel flight phases on a typical mission, and are chock-full of experience, insights and trivia from preflight to postflighta truly amazing story for all pilots interested in this legendary powerhouse.

Every chapter contains a special topic along with the related phase of flight, comprised of Lewis and Cook's coverage of pertinent Caravan characteristics, or stories told by pilots flying Caravans in unusual circumstances and faraway places. Two sections of color photography are included, and multiple appendices with further information on specifications and industry contacts for Caravan owners, as well as extensive footnotes and bibliography. Foreword by Steve Stafford.

Oct 14, 2019

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Caravan - LeRoy Cook

Caravan: Cessna’s Swiss Army Knife with Wings!

by J.D. Lewis and LeRoy Cook

Aviation Supplies & Academics, Inc.

7005 132nd Place SE • Newcastle, WA 98059

(425) 235-1500 • email asa@asa2fly.com

Internet: www.asa2fly.com

© 2008 J.D. Lewis and LeRoy Cook

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. None of the material in this book supersedes any operational documents or procedures issued by the Federal Aviation Administration, aircraft and avionics manufacturers, flight schools, or the operators of aircraft. While the authors have made every effort to ensure accuracy of the information in this book, the information herein is sold without warranty, either implied or expressed. The opinions contained herein are solely those of the authors and not the publisher, the manufacturer, or any flight training entity.

Published 2008 by Aviation Supplies & Academics, Inc.

eBook published 2019 by Aviation Supplies & Academics, Inc.


Softcover ISBN 978-1-56027-682-1

ePub ISBN 978-1-61954-943-2

Cover photos courtesy Cessna Aircraft Company. All other photo credits are listed in parentheses at the end of the corresponding caption.


C208 Short Strip

As a movie stunt pilot who had to takeoff and land a 208 on just 400 feet of dirt up in the Los Angeles mountains, I first read CARAVAN cover to cover... and then read it again. Thanks, Lewis & Cook!

—Steve Stafford

I’ve flown as a motion picture stunt pilot on numerous productions over the past two decades. Normally, I’m hired months before production begins to finesse the endless challenges that flying on a production entails. Even though I hold a current FAA-Approved Motion Picture Flight Manual and Waiver, each individual flight must be approved by the governing FSDO. Permission must be granted by local property owners and governing municipalities and special insurance certificates need to be generated and distributed to all participating parties.

That was not the case on the last Will Ferrell film I worked on. I got a call from a producer of The Goods, stating they needed to film a parachute jump plane taking off and landing on a dirt road they had found up in the mountains, north of Los Angeles. The shot was scheduled for the following week. I asked what kind of plane they wanted and the length of the dirt road and was met with a pronounced silence on the other end of the line. In other words, the producer had no idea what the shot entailed. After asking a few more questions, I jumped in our helicopter and flew out to their location. The dirt road lay on a somewhat flat mesa surrounded by steep mountains, rising up on all sides. The road was potholed from years of erosion. I paced off the usable section of the 12-foot wide road and found it was just a bit over 450 feet long. No question about it—if it could be done, a short 208, outfitted with a jump door, was the best choice. I flew back to our hangar and pulled out our 208. I removed the seats, drained all but 15 gallons of fuel per side and began flight testing. Sure enough, I could consistently get airborne in less than 300 feet and land and stop in less than 200 hundred feet.

I called the producer and said I would accept the job. I located a jump school and contracted to use their 208. The day of the shoot, I circled over my ground coordinator and fuel truck driver, Jon Bottari, and radioed I was setting up to land. The day before, Jon and I had marked off a ten-foot section of the approach end of the dirt road. If my mains weren’t firmly planted on terra firma in those first ten feet, Jon would call an abort and I would go around, as the end of the road dropped off into a steep canyon. I set up an incredibly tight pattern, slowed to full flaps and then hung it on the prop. With the stall horn blaring and my mains brushing the approach end scrub, I chopped power and dropped in, well within the first ten feet. I stopped without reverse in just over 180 feet of the bumpiest runway I’ve ever landed on. What other airplane besides the Caravan could safely do that? The subsequent takeoffs and landings went off without a hitch and I returned the plane to the jump school later that evening.

The Caravan is one of my favorite airplanes—and a favorite of some of my actor friends who have Caravans—a plane that is itself a true Star deserving top billing.

Also deserving top billing are Lewis and Cook. If you’ve not yet had the privilege of meeting John (J.D.) Lewis or LeRoy Cook in one of their other written works, or better yet in person, then it is my pleasure to introduce them to you now. I leave you in their exceptionally knowledgeable and capable hands.

Steve Stafford

StudioWings, Inc.


Cessna’s mighty Caravan has been turning heads ever since it leapt off the engineer team’s drawing board in 1982. Step aboard as we take you on a fun tour of this amazingly versatile airplane. (Photo courtesy of Cessna Aircraft Company)


The Cessna Aircraft Company revolutionized the definition of utility aircraft when it introduced its gargantuan single-engine propjet in 1985. By its 20th anniversary in 2005, the worldwide Caravan fleet had multiplied to 1,500 Caravans and accumulated 8 million flight hours, averaging nearly 70,000 hours per month! Air Labrador leads the pack with one of its Caravans that alone has logged over 24,000 hours. Rugged, reliable, and versatile, the Caravan operates in over 70 countries. Without question, the Caravan, with its impressive 98% dispatch reliability rate, has become the modern DC-3 workhorse of our era!

From transporting live edible eels to flying the New York Times, the robust Caravan does it all: bush flying, geophysical exploration and mapping, patrol, air ambulance, military, sightseeing, corporate, commuter airline, skydiving, cargo, missionary and humanitarian flying—you name it, by land or sea! The Caravan Amphibian, for example, is a favorite among sightseeing vacationers splashing down in the Keys looking for that cheeseburger in paradise. It’s easy to see why Cessna affectionately calls the Caravan "a Swiss Army Knife, with wings!"

To meet its myriad missions, on wheels, skis, or floats, Cessna has offered a wide model line of Caravan models: Grand Caravan 208B, Super Cargomaster 208B, Caravan I 208A, Cargomaster 208A, Caravan Amphibian, Caravan Floatplane as well as the U-27A military version of the Caravan. Seating varies from 2 seats on the two cargo versions up to 14 seats depending on the country and local aviation regulations.

Cessna reported that approximately 65 percent of the Caravans manufactured in 2003 were going to owner-operators. Pilots want the added safety of a turbine engine and the extra legroom and load carrying capability of the Caravan. Some call it Suburban with a turbine as well as their flying SUV. Other nicknames include Van, aerial truck, and Bushmaster. Over the years the Caravan has evolved from a tough and gritty pick-up truck to a luxurious personal SUV. But regardless of how the bed of the sled looks behind the pilot, one thing remains constant: the Caravan is known worldwide as a reliable workaholic.

This book has been written in response to the immense popularity of this one-of-a-kind airplane. It has an amazing story to tell. So popular is the Caravan that it seems to have a worldwide fan club. This plane even has its very own Caravan Pilots website dedicated to it, where Van aficionados can talk about their favorite airplane—something unique to only the most unique/popular of airplanes. Not only that, the Caravan has become such a household name in the aviation community that it is even one of the few airplanes used on the flight planning portion of the FAA’s ATP knowledge exam.

From its colorful history, to its innovative-yet-conventional aircraft systems, to interesting pilot stories, to 208 tips, we hope you’ll find this book both entertaining and enlightening—Caravan edutainment at its best! Chock full of experience, insights, and trivia—from pre-flight to post-flight—this book was written by pilots for pilots. Even the layout parallels your flight phases on a typical flight. So please, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride as we take you on a scenic tour de force of this amazing monster of an airplane they call C-A-R-A-V-A-N!

Happy Caravanning,

Lewis & Cook

About Lewis & Cook

To simply say that LeRoy Cook is an aviation enthusiast would be a profound understatement. In a word, Cook has been eating, sleeping, breathing, and living aviation for some four decades. Cook is a Midwest-based flight school owner, aviation writer, and flight instructor who has been helping countless pilots better understand all facets of aviation since December 1971 when his first CFI column debuted in Private Pilot magazine. In addition, Cook has written articles for Flying, Twin & Turbine, AOPA Flight Training, Air Progress, Custom Planes, and KITPLANES. He also participated in the writing of two books: 101 Things To Do With Your Private Pilot License (Third Edition) as well as American Aviation: An Illustrated History (2nd Edition). He’s a Gold Seal flight instructor with single- and multi-engine airplane, instrument, and glider ratings, an ATP with single and multi-engine airplane ratings, and a commercial pilot with glider and single-engine sea ratings. Even still, Cook fancies himself as a student pilot who learns from his students daily.

A former FedEx Caravan cargo pilot, J.D. Lewis is a Caravan instructor at FlightSafety International. Lewis flies and writes from Wichita, Kansas, the Air Capital and birthplace of the Cessna Caravan. Lewis holds an ATP in the Caravan, is a 4,000-hour pilot, and has written for Flight Training, FAA Aviation News, Private Pilot, KITPLANES, and the Midwest Aviation Journal.

Lewis and Cook (not to be confused with Lewis and Clark) first met in 1993 at Central Missouri State University at the school-run Skyhaven Airport when Cook flew in to interview Lewis for a summer internship with Private Pilot magazine. The two have been good friends ever since and have teamed up on many expeditions together, covering small aviation stories up to the world-renowned Oshkosh Airshow. CARAVAN is their latest expedition.

Chapter 1


Plan the flight and fly the plan.

—Ancient Aviator Proverb

The Caravan is Born!

The advent of the largest single-engine airplane in the history of the Cessna Aircraft Company began just before Christmas of 1982 when Cessna unwrapped the B-I-G secret of its skunk works division: the Caravan! It was indeed a very merry Christmas that year for both Cessna and aviation in general for a new aerial workhorse—the DC-3 of our era—was born!

The Caravan was an enigma. Innovative yet conventional. New school yet old school. Single-engine yet propjet. Originally designed to be the ultimate bushmaster airplane, the Caravan has been turning heads ever since its first flight, not just due to its enormous size but also because it was the first time that a major airplane manufacturer had horse-powered a single-engine production airplane with a turbine engine. That was truly revolutionary!

Actually, it was amidst the energy crisis of 1975 that Cessna first had its vision of a turbine-powered utility-type single-engine airplane. In a word it optimally fit Clyde Vernon Cessna’s earliest visions of aircraft designs based on strength, durability and performance.¹

Not only was the Caravan revolutionary, it was brave. To introduce an all-new utility aircraft in the financially rugged ’80s, as the aircraft manufacturing industry was losing altitude, was, well, gutsy! These were the times of layoffs. Even as the leader in general aviation aircraft manufacturing, Cessna’s workforce spiraled down from 18,000 to 3,000 by the mid-80s. It makes sense that such a rugged utility airplane would come out of these rugged, utilitarian times! Remember, it would still be 12 long years from the Caravan’s introduction until President Bill Clinton signed the historic General Aviation Revitalization Act into law—and, fittingly, with Cessna’s own chairman Russ Meyer looking over the president’s shoulder in the worth-a-thousand-words photograph.

The idea for an all-purpose, turbine-powered, rugged, bush-type utility plane officially hit the engineers’ drawing boards at Cessna on November 20, 1981.² The Dream Team who designed the Caravan includes some heavyweights in both U.S. and Canadian aviation. For starters, Cessna’s legendary director and industry leader Dwane Wallace, nephew of Clyde Cessna and nicknamed Mr. General Aviation by his peers, helped see to it that the Caravan was designed with very long-range fuel tanks and very strong and forgiving landing gear for remote bush operators.³ Cessna had the foresight that a rugged utility single-engine turboprop would be more successful than a sleek and sporty 350-mph six-place pressurized executive airplane. Actually, a few were trying to make such an aircraft: the Laser 300 built by OMAC, which was a canard pusher with a PT6A-135A in the back, the Smith PropJet built by Mike Smith, which combined a fiberglass fuselage, a Baron wing, and a PT6A propjet engine, and the Lightning by Beech Aircraft, which used the Baron fuselage and wing and a Garrett TPE-331.⁴ The fact that you may not have ever heard of these other planes is a clear sign that Cessna went the wise route with their simple-but-not-Spartan design.

Evolution of a Revolution

Around this time, Cessna enlisted the help of recently retired president of de Havilland of Canada Russell Bannock and Dick Hiscocks, the recently retired vice president of engineering at de Havilland. Bannock and Hiscocks had urged de Havilland for some time to develop an airplane like the Caravan to replace the old Beavers and Otters. But de Havilland was not interested in such an endeavor. Needless to say, Hiscocks and Bannock were elated to lend a helping hand south of the border as Cessna turned a dream into a reality. Perhaps now you can see why the Caravan seems to have some of the rugged bush plane features reminiscent of the Beaver and Otter here and there.

Other notables on Cessna’s now famous Caravan construction crew include: John Berwick, chief engineer, Larry VanDyke, project engineer, and Phil Hendrick, principal engineer.

Cessna started by metamorphosizing the Cessna 206 Stationair. First, they widened it to carry three passengers abreast. Then they stretched its tail feathers to haul 55-gallon drums and 4x8-foot sheets of plywood. The only limitation was the size of the cargo door. No problem. They widened it to a mammoth 50-inch square door! From there [the cargo door], the rest of the aircraft took shape, said Phil Hendrick.

Basically, when we designed the Caravan, we designed a pickup truck with wings, said Chief Engineer John Berwick, We really designed it specifically to handle the tough conditions where we knew the smaller cargo operators were going."⁶ Although Cessna started by altering a 206, and a 207, engineers eventually found it easier to just get out a clean piece of paper and start from scratch. Their goal was simple: build a box that could hold 10 people and fly a NACA 23000-series wing with a turbine engine.

Originally, engineers had fitted the modified fuselage with the 450-hp PT6A-112 turbine, used on the Conquest I; however, wanting a more rugged engine for bush flying, they ultimately went with the PT6A-114, an 875-horsepower engine de-rated to 600 shp. This 350-pound turbine engine was an ideal choice because it would happily consume fuels common around the world, including flying limited distances even on avgas or diesel for emergency situations.

There’s so much that makes this airplane unique. For example, this Kansas-born plane had a wizardly short yellow-brick road from drawing board to first flight. In less than one year, we went from go-ahead to first flight. That was unheard of at the time, and it still is! said Phil Hendrick.

First Flight and Rave Reviews

The Caravan prototype, N208LP, piloted by W. K. Bill Bergman, made its landmark first flight on December 9, 1982. It departed McConnell Air Force Base, which is adjacent to Cessna’s Pawnee Division’s airfield in Wichita, Kansas.⁷ For sure, many perplexed pilots were clicking their flight boots together that historic day but finding that they were indeed still in Wichita, Kansas, which the locals call the Air Capital of the World due to all the aircraft manufacturers (Beech, Lear, Boeing, and Mooney at one time). Incidentally, the LP in N208LP, from what one Cessna engineer told us, was code for Large Plane. However, others contest that it stood for Land Plane since the Sea Plane version of the Cessna was planned to be next.

The Caravan prototype N208LP seen here during a flight over the Air Capital of Wichita, Kansas, home of the Cessna Aircraft Company. (Photo by LeRoy Cook)

And when the Caravan first started hitting the covers of aviation magazines in the mid-’80s, it was an instant hit, receiving rave reviews by all. J. Mac McClellan of Flying magazine flew the Caravan and described it with this high-flying accolade: Exotic as a packhorse, the Caravan I may be the best-handling Cessna single.⁸ Likewise, Peter Lert of Air Progress opined, I’ve seldom been as enthusiastic about an airplane as I am about this one. It’s not the average personal machine we report on in these pages nor is it meant to be... but, twenty or thirty years from now, it may well occupy the same place in the history of aviation—not to mention the back country airstrips and nighttime freight ramps of the world—as the DC-3 does now.⁹ Nigel Moll who reviewed the Caravan Amphibian for Flying magazine, reported, The flying was spectacularly undemanding, so well executed is the seagoing version of this big, friendly airplane, which dwarfs just about everything on the ramp, including the fuel truck.¹⁰ And finally, John W. Olcott and Richard N. Aarons of Business and Commercial Aviation magazine concluded that the Caravan I is fun to fly and that Cessna appears to have an aircraft that possesses all the qualities of a winner. Utility operators should be flying versions of this pleasant-handling rugged workhorse well into the 21st century.¹¹

Matt Amsden, manager of Caravan marketing/communications, explained how the idea of the Caravan concept evolved during a TV interview with Discovery Wings: The original concept of the airplane was bush use—use out in the outback to deliver heating supplies and people and to provide services basically where there are no roads. Amsden continued, And what happened is when the airplane was originally conceived, Federal Express came to us and said we would also be interested in that airplane for a freight use, so they were developed kind of at the same time in both the bush use and for freight.¹²

The Federal Express Years

If you have followed the history of the Caravan I at all, you know that Federal Express figures prominently in the success the aircraft has enjoyed since its announcement in 1983.¹³ Or, as another Caravan News newsletter put it, At first, it was the Caravan and Federal Express. The opening chapter of the Caravan success story could be entitled ‘The Federal Express Years.’¹⁴ For sure, 1985 to 1995 was the FedEx Decade in the history of the Caravan.

Although it began as a bush plane, the Cessna Caravan soon caught the eye of Fredrick W. Smith, founder and chief executive officer of Federal Express. Smith started FedEx in 1971—despite earning a C on his Yale term paper for his novel idea of the world’s first overnight air delivery network. Smith, who later grew his C-grade term paper into a $32-billion global transportation company with over 600 aircraft,¹⁵ first saw the Caravan when it graced the April cover of Flying magazine in 1983. He thought it would make a good cargo plane for his feeder operations. So Smith, at the invitation of Cessna CEO Russ Meyer, paid a visit to the Cessna manufacturing facility in Wichita, Kansas to have a better look and discuss possibilities.

We hosted Federal Express engineers and contracts people for several days, explained Phil Hendrick, educating them on the aircraft and trying to understand what they wanted in a cargo aircraft.

Fred Smith—a retired U.S. Marine Corps pilot himself—as reported in The Legend of Cessna, explains:

We looked all over the world. We had to have an airplane that was very economical and very reliable. But the traditional designs did not meet either of those two essential criteria. Other planes were more expensive, and they weren’t reliable, at least to our standards. We became aware of Cessna’s innovative approach to the utility airplane business: taking a rugged design and marrying it to the very proven PT6 in a single engine versus a traditional twin-engine configuration. And the rest is history.¹⁶

Cessna worked hand-in-glove with FedEx in the early days in designing the Cargomaster to meet FedEx’s seven-fold request: 1) cargo pod, 2) cargo barrier, 3) no cabin passenger windows, 4) no passenger door, 5) gill liner interior, 6) plywood floor liner, and 7) seat track with tie-down provisions.

Cessna made the changes, such as the new 820-pound capacity cargo pod, made with a Nomex inner housing, an inside layer of Kevlar, and an outer layer of fiberglass. Cessna even went so far as to increase the original maximum takeoff weight of 7,300 pounds to a beefy 8,000 pounds. By the end of the same year, 1985, Federal Express was satisfied and emblazoned FEDEX on the windowless fuselages of the first 30 Caravan 208s to come off Cessna’s production line. After its first six months of operation, Federal Express Caravans had already logged over 2,000 hours of flight time!

Federal Express uses some 300 Cessna Caravans as part of its Feeder Operations, flying packages from the big cities to the smaller towns throughout the U.S. and abroad. (Photo courtesy of Cessna Aircraft Company)

By 1986, FedEx had two of its Caravans flying mail for the U.S. Postal Service. After an intensive test period, acceptance of the single-engine Caravan was a landmark decision by the U.S. Postal Service as previous policy allowed for only multi-engine airplanes for their contracts. The significance of this change, said Bill Hogan (then Cessna Manager, Sales Engineering), "is the large number of mail contracts coming up for renewal in 1987 and beyond.¹⁷ Also in ‘86 the Canadian Department of Transportation (DOT) granted a specific policy letter making the Cessna Caravan the first plane in Canadian history to fly a single-engine airplane approved to fly commercial cargo under IFR conditions. Hogan predicted well the future when he said in 1986, The approval could open the door for cargo carriers such as Federal Express and others to expand service into Canada and contract with operators in that country.¹⁸

The year 1986—when Cessna’s reciprocating single-engine production halted—was a landmark year for the Caravan turboprop. For starters, 11 Caravans were delivered in November of ’86—a record number for a single month to leave the factory. It was also the year the U.S. Postal Service as well as Canada’s DOT approved the Caravan for IFR cargo operations. There are many reasons for the expected flurry of deliveries, said Dick Schwebel, Cessna Vice President of Aircraft Marketing, Among them are the overall awareness and acceptance of the Caravan I, coupled with its excellent track record, and the new lease program. In 1986 Cessna announced its new leasing program, which it called the Caravan Lease Assist Program. It was a very attractive opportunity to many operators as it allowed them a minimum security deposit, a relatively low monthly payment, and the option for annual cancellation during the lease, which was available for one to seven years. Monthly payments were only $8,000 to $9,000, and the security deposit was just two lease payments. Along with this, of course, is the investment tax credit, said Schwebel with a grin in his voice. So, 1986 was indeed a good year. Things were really beginning to take off for Cessna’s Caravan division. In addition, November marked the first delivery of the stretched version of the Caravan I, the 208B, to Federal Express. And, other air carriers such as DHL and UPS are specifying the Caravan I for certain routes, smiled Schwebel.¹⁹

Just a few months later at the Paris Air Show, the Cessna Aircraft Company—along with its then associate company Reims Aviation, S.A., displayed five specially equipped Caravans, which included one Federal Express version—the first 208 (registration number F-GEOH) to be operated by FedEx in France after the country recently received approval for the single-engine Caravan to fly IFR cargo. This Caravan display at the Paris Air Show commanded a large presence and was the largest single showing of the Caravan in the history of the airplane up to that time.²⁰

By the mid-to-late 80s, FedEx had 34 Caravans that had flown more than 15,400 hours, and with a very impressive dispatch rate of 99.71%.²¹ In March 1988, FedEx had 106 Caravans (with 93 more on the way) and had now surpased 100,000 hours of cumulative flight time. That’s pretty amazing considering delivery of the first 30 Caravans occurred just three years prior. Also in 1988 Cessna and FedEx were already using an advanced computerized Engine Trend Monitoring (ETM) system for the entire fleet and Category II approach certification was pending with some Caravans coming out of the factory fully Category II equipped.

By 1996, FedEx surpassed 1,000,000 flight hours in its 264 Caravans, which transported about 375 tons of express cargo each night.²² And by 1997 FedEx was flying 300 Caravans thoughout the globe.²³

With the Caravan we have a fundamentally sound design concept and production concept in the airframe, and everything in the airplane is simple. I think it says a lot about Cessna that they’re innovative, but they tend not to throw away the fundamentals, said Federal Express Vice President of Supplemental Air Operations Mark Blair in an interview with writer Jeffrey Rodengen.²⁴

Big Gets Bigger

In 1985, FedEx told Cessna, We like it but can you make it even bigger? So the Cessna engineers—eager to satisfy their best Caravan customer—went back to the drawing boards. We were just settling in with those specifications when Federal Express asked us if we could make the aircraft larger, Hendrick chuckled, We weren’t quite ready for that.

But by October of 1985 Cessna had successfully stretched the Caravan airframe (again!). Now the big bird was 4 feet longer, had 113 cubic feet more cargo volume and 500 pounds more payload. In other words, the original Model 208A’s 3,000-lb payload and 337 cubic feet of cargo space enlarged to a roomier 3,500-lb payload with 450 cubic feet of cargo volume for the Model 208B. Cessna gave the name Super Cargomaster to its new 208B cargo monster. For sure, B stands for BIGGER!

The aircraft have been outstanding in every respect and we expect the Caravans to play a very large role in the future expansion of our system, said FedEx Founder Fred Smith during his acceptance speech for the first Federal Express 208B in Wichita in October of 1986. At that time, FedEx was flying Caravans in 25 states throughout the U.S.²⁵

At record pace, Cessna was now delivering three Caravans per month to FedEx.²⁶ By now, Caravans were being operated in Africa, Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand, and South America. Cessna’s production line was quite impressive back in the mid- to late-’80s. A new Caravan was being released to the flight line approximately every 20 hours. From start to finish (not counting flight test and paint), final assembly of one Caravan was taking just 37 days! Cranking out Caravans like clockwork was and has been possible thanks to four main teams at the Cessna factory in Wichita: Design Engineering, The Planners, Industrial Engineering, and Quality Assurance Inspection.²⁷

In 1987, during the flurry of Caravan deliveries to Federal Express and others—as if the production line was not already busy enough—Cessna, having caught the attention of military aviators, introduced its military version of the Caravan, the U-27A, for use by various military, paramilitary, and governmental agencies throughout the world.

In 1989, Cessna decided to evolve the Super Cargomaster into a passenger plane, as they installed some passenger side windows and seats and called it the Grand Caravan. The first windowed Grand Caravan, serial number 230, was delivered in 1990. It was also equipped with a ladder for the co-pilot, a passenger air-stair door, and a beefier 675-horsepower PT6A-114A. The year 1990 was another milestone for the 208 in that it switched from the Hartzell composite propeller to the metal McCauley prop on all models, which, reportedly, gave the aircraft increased performance.²⁸

In 1991, Cessna delivered its 500th Caravan, fittingly, to Federal Express. And by the end of 1994, FedEx had received government authorization to operate its Caravans under IFR conditions in Denmark, France, Ireland, and Sweden, marking the first such approval in history for European countries for a single-engine airplane. FedEx was also instrumental in getting Category II approach operation authorization in the Caravan, another historic first for a single-engine plane. In addition, there were now already 32 Caravan Amphibians splashing down in waterways everywhere.²⁹ Speaking of waterways, the Caravan Amphibian is also the first plane to land at the 2,300-foot illuminated waterway at Hampton Island—the only such waterway of its kind in the United States.³⁰

A Caravan of Caravans Around the World

By now Caravans were popping up throughout various countries around the globe. For example, the Winter 1995 issue of Cessna’s Caravan News newsletter reported these worldwide statistics:

Model 208As: 244

Model 208Bs: 470

Caravan Operators: 211

Operators with 2+ Caravans: 64

Scheduled Freight/Airline Ops: 384

Percentage in the United States: 65%

Caravans with +13,000 hours: 2

Caravans with 10,000 to 13,000 hours: 5

Caravans with 4,000 to 10,000 hours: 202

Air Serv

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