News — 16.02.22

Textron is putting the new clean sheet Beechcraft Denali through its paces with early testing, aiming for certification in 2023. Altitudes look at what the high-performance single-engine turboprop aircraft will bring to a busy market sector.

When Textron Aviation first showed the then Cessna Denali mock-up at AirVenture 2016, there was much discussion about the potential return on investment for another aircraft in the well-served turboprop sector.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, these dissenting voices were raised again, suggesting that the investment in developing the clean sheet aircraft would not be recouped in the fallout of the drastic drop in aviation, particularly in the US, the industry’s biggest market. However, the business aviation sector has not just bounced back but has grown exponentially, with the USA leading the way, and with the second-hand inventory at a historic low, this could be the perfect time to bring something new to consumers.


Now known as the Beechcraft Denali, the test aircraft had its maiden flight in November last year, flying from Textron Aviation’s west campus at Eisenhower International AirportDuring 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 Denali reached an altitude of 15,600 feet and attained speeds of 180 knots.

The Denali prototype aircraft, along with two additional flight test aircraft and three full airframe ground test articles, will now continue to be used to assess aircraft systems, engine, avionics and overall performance as the turboprop move towards production, with Beechcraft aiming to have the new aircraft certified in 2023.

Avionics: The Denali’s flight deck leverages a range of modern technology and is equipped with the Garmin G3000 intuitive avionics suite.


Configurable cabin

The Denali is inevitably going to be compared with the very successful Pilatus PC-12, with which it shares many similarities and in whose market it will compete. They are very similar in overall size, with the Denali’s clean lines coming in at just three inches longer at 48ft 9in. They offer the same internal height, 4ft 10in, but Beechcraft claims that the Denali’s wider cross-section of the cabin gives more head and shoulder room than the competition. What the Denali does have is a flat-floor cabin that is currently the largest in its class at 4 feet 10 inches, a full 5% larger than the PC-12’s, allowing even your knees to have elbow room!

The Denali aims to be flexible and adaptable. The cabin configurations on offer include a six-seat executive interior or a nine-seat higher density commuter version. The company describes the cabin as ‘jet inspired’, and the executive option certainly offers passengers a level of space and convenience that is more often found on a midsize jet than a single-engine turboprop. This includes executive-style reclining seating, a cabin switch panel with individually adjustable climate controls for each seat, a baggage compartment that is accessible in flight, a forward refreshment centre that is reconfigurable for different missions, an optional externally serviceable belted lavatory and great views from large windows – larger even than the Pilatus PX-12 with the NGX upgrade.


Passengers also have access to universal 110-volt cabin power outlets and USB charging ports throughout the cabin.  These luxuries should help it to compete with some of the small jets, such as the HondaJet and Embraer Phenom 100EV, that sit in a very similar price bracket of around US$5 million.

In a cargo configuration, the turboprop’s huge, almost square, side loading door offers excellent access, and the optional lavatory can be entirely removed to accommodate larger cargo loads in the aft cabin.


The Denali turboprop’s flight deck leverages a range of modern technology and is equipped with the Garmin G3000 intuitive avionics suite with high-resolution and touchscreen controllers, and optional wireless connectivity, to make flying easy. An integrated Garmin autothrottle is now a standard feature, which interfaces with the Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS) and Flight Management System (FMS) to provide easy speed control throughout all regimes of flight from take-off to touchdown. Other standard features include three 14-inch diagonal, widescreen LCD displays; Synthetic Vision Technology; dual Garmin FMS with dual WAAS-enabled GPS receivers for navigation; Weather Avoidance Radar; Terrain Avoidance Warning System (TAWS-B); Garmin Traffic Collision and Avoidance System (TCAS I); Dual Attitude Heading Reference System; Dual Air Data computers and a digital audio system.


Green technology

The new Beechcraft Denali turboprop is powered by GE Aviation’s next-generation Catalyst engine. As the industry pushes towards greater sustainability at all levels, GE Aviation and Textron Aviation have collaborated to produce an aircraft that offers reduced CO2 emissions, increased efficiency, and can be powered by Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), and the Catalyst is at the heart of this. The engine is designed to offer a greater range but uses less fuel.

These luxuries should help it to compete with some of the small jets, such as the HondaJet and Embraer Phenom 100EV.

The Full Authority Digital Engine and Propeller Control-equipped (FADEC), 1,300 shaft horsepower (SHP)-rated turboprop engine is designed to ease the pilot workload by use of a single-lever power and propeller control. It is also the first turboprop engine with 3D printed parts. The use of additive manufacturing has turned what was previously 855 parts into just 12.

Although the recent test flight was the first time the Catalyst was used in the Denali, the engine has endured hours of rigorous testing in the sky on Beechcraft’s tried and trusted King Air turboprop. The airplane is equipped with McCauley’s new 105-inch diameter, 5-blade, constant speed propeller, which is full feathering with reversible pitch and ice protection.



  • Cost: US$4.8 million
  • Maximum 4-Passenger Range: 1,600 nm
  • Maximum Occupants: 8-11
  • Maximum Cruise Speed: 285 ktas
  • Maximum Operating Altitude: 31,000ft
  • Maximum Cabin Differential: 7,55psi
  • Sea Level Cabin up to: 18,700ft
  • Takeoff distance: 2,900ft
  • Full Fuel Payload: 1,100 lb
  • Fuselage Length: 48ft 9 in
  • Fuselage Height: 15ft 2 in
  • Wingspan: 54ft 3 in
  • Cabin Length: 29ft 6 in
  • Cabin Height: 4ft 10 in
  • Cabin Width: 5ft 3 in
  • Cargo Door: 4ft 2 in by 4ft 3 in

Inflight performance

Carrying four passengers, the Denali has a range of 1,600 nautical miles at a high-speed cruise with one pilot and will be able to fly from Los Angeles to Chicago, New York to Miami, or London to Moscow at a max cruise speed of 285 knots. The PC-12’s slightly faster 287 knots are unlikely to sway potential buyers, although its greater maximum range at 1,803nm might.

At the Denali’s 31,000-foot service ceiling, 1,000 feet above the PC-12, the 7.55 psi cabin differential will be the equivalent of an aircraft flying at 6,130 feet. For passenger comfort, it will maintain a sea-level cabin up to 18,500 feet. Beechcraft has certainly added an interesting, adaptable and competitive aircraft to its turboprop lineup. It remains to be seen what impact it will have on the market in 2023.