Cessna Denali



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The Denali has an ergonomically designed pedestal that includes dual touchscreen controllers for its Garmin™ G3000™ avionics. It also features a single lever power for engine control, an electric trim system with a pitch trim wheel for fine adjustment and a minimized profile for easy access in and out of the cockpit. Getting ready to go is as simple as pushing a single button which starts the Denali with a FADEC controlled automated start sequence.


GE Aviation announced the official name for the Denali’s Advanced Turboprop engine on March 7, 2018. The high technology dual channel FADEC powerplant is now the GE Catalyst.

The Catalyst™ engine has now entered certification testing, where GE Aviation will validate its aerodynamics, mechanics and aerothermal systems. The 1,240 shp-rated engine introduces 79 new technologies to offer higher efficiency, better performance and greater durability than other engines in its class.

With the first engine run and most of the individual component testing completed, early indications show that the Catalyst will meet or exceed all the performance numbers quoted.


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With the latest mockup build, we now have the first opportunity for customers to experience the full power of the Cessna Denali’s cockpit – one that revolutionizes the single engine turboprop segment. The Garmin™ G3000™ flight deck modernizes turboprop avionics and significantly reduces pilot workload with dual touchscreen controllers and Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology, allowing pilots to easily perform common tasks and manage the flight deck.


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Left to right: Steve Carroll (A & P Mechanic), Patrick Wanless (Engineer Specialist), Aasiri Fernando (Engineering Manager), Marc McHenry (Engineer Specialist), Brett Lusby (Engineer Specialist), John Christensen (Senior Engineer), Courtney Balzer (Engineer Specialist), Chris Andress (Engineer) , Dan Oltjenbruns (Engineer Specialist), Rodney Cline (Avionics Technician)

The Flight Systems Simulator department consists of about ten engineers. It usually takes one to two years to build a simulator depending on its complexity and how many models are being built at the same time. The Denali Iron Bird took about 18 months to build. Because of Textron Aviation’s aggressive investment in new products, there are eight completed iron birds across multiple models, with three currently seeing heavy use.


The development program of the Cessna Denali single-engine turboprop marked a recent milestone with the successful mating by GE Aviation of its advanced Catalyst engine with the MCCAULEY composite propeller at the test facility in Prague. Watch the video produced by GE Aviation on the progress of the Catalyst.

The 1,300 shp turboprop engine has already completed more than 1,000 hours of testing on three test articles. With the new composite 5-blade propeller mated, GE Aviation successfully achieved full power and max RPM and demonstrated the full range of pitch using a FADEC with integrated propeller control. The Denali aircraft is the first new turboprop to employ a FADEC that controls both the engine and propeller. 

GE Aviation’s Catalyst engine currently has 98 patented technologies on the engine. It is the first turboprop engine in its class to introduce two stages of variable stator vanes, cooled high-pressure turbine blades and a FADEC – technologies that have proven themselves in millions of flying hours on GE Aviation’s other commercial and military engines. It performs at an industry-best 16:1 overall pressure ratio, enabling the engine to achieve 10 percent more power compared to competitor offerings in the same size class.


Regarding the Catalyst, GE Aviation recently produced a 3D printed mockup of the engine used by Textron Aviation engineers to assess the ease of access for maintenance, once the actual engine is installed.

Using 3D Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) techniques, this plastic mockup is an exact replica printed from the final computer design that includes various mounting and attachment holes which was then fitted with other 3D printed or real attachments such as hoses and required operational components. The engine mockup is available for viewing at this year’s Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Fly-In Convention, July 22-28 at GE Aviation’s booth #373-376.

Apart from the 3D printed FDM mockup, the actual production engine incorporates similar, but more advanced additive manufacturing technique to create metal parts. This allows components like the heat exchangers, that would normally be constructed using dozens of individual components, to be manufactured as a one-piece part, eliminating complexity and increasing cooling efficiency while reducing weight, wear and leakage. The engine is designed for predictive maintenance enabling personalized service and improved aircraft availability.


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With a jet-like cabin design, dual-channel FADEC and the first clean-sheet turboprop engine in more than 30 years, the CESSNA DENALI aircraft is sure to disrupt the marketplace. But behind the features and capabilities of the new aircraft is a team of experts invested in both the plane and those who will sit inside.

They call themselves “The Denali Core Team” and their mission is to deliver Textron Aviation’s most advanced single-engine turboprop. However, that’s where many of their similarities end. From manufacturing to customer service to marketing, the team is packed full of experts from strikingly different areas all working together to break boundaries.

“The best product comes from the best team,” stated Ernie Krusbsack, Denali’s Program Manager. “There isn’t an individual on this team that isn’t enthused and engaged about the product.”

Krubsack leads the core team, which is fitting considering his history with Textron Aviation. He’s been doing program manager work for nearly 20 years, most recently on the Cessna CITATION LATITUDE aircraft. His expertise lies in gathering innovators in many different fields of aviation and fostering an environment where they work in unison.

“It can be difficult,” Krubsack said. “But I find it enjoyable in the sense that you have to get into each person’s psyche, and you have to understand what makes them tick.”

While Krubsack leads the core team, each member of the team represents his or her own division. It’s a challenge they don’t take lightly.

“I’ve been interested in taking on the challenge of lead engineer on a program,” Manufacturing Engineer Program Manager Jonathan Braaten said. “When this opportunity became available, my supervisor handed me the keys and said, ‘Alright, let’s see what you’ve got.’”

Braaten’s push for human factors, ergonomics, and cost-effectiveness on the program stemmed from his manufacturing viewpoint. Others, such as David A. Dorner, emphasized the need for quality aftermarket parts and service options for Denali’s Customer Service Team.

“Early in the program, we established best practice, maintainability, and reliability goals to ensure reduced labor hours per flight hour,” stated Dorner. “We also monitored the associated design attributes for the platform to improve operational availability.”

Major aftermarket advances on the Denali aircraft included the implementation of an industry-leading diagnostic system, comprised of both a Central Maintenance Computer (CMC) and a full-time data recorder (AReS). When combined, the CMC and AReS provide indicated causes for crew alerts and advanced troubleshooting, a major boon for Customer Service representatives. Other on-board solutions already incorporated on the aircraft help to minimize specialized tools and test equipment needed for Denali turboprop maintenance.

The team’s use of the Maintenance Steering Group (MSG-3) analysis process further highlighted the unique collaboration on the Denali turboprop. Comprised of a steering committee of operators, suppliers, engineering personnel, and FAA representatives, the team involved in the MSG-3 process provided detailed analysis of every system, structure, and zone of the aircraft for scheduled tasking and maintenance interval requirements.

When other Core Team areas step up to support the needs of other departments in the build, it hasn’t gone unnoticed. “This engineering team has been amazing. Very, very responsive,” Dorner said of the requested changes from Aftermarket. “That’s been very exciting.”

That balance often revealed itself in gray areas and processes that had to be tested, developed and finally implemented. Much of the responsibility fell under Brad Bednar, the Experimental Project Coordinator.

“I think I’m just comfortable dealing with ambiguity and then learning something new each day and each week. In this role, if you want to stick to one schedule or one way of doing things, you’re not going to absorb all the knowledge,” Bednar said. “As the plane gets built, you check and adjust your plan seven, ten, twelve times and see what’s the best route to move.”

“It becomes a big part of your life,” Braaten said about the Denali aircraft. “The Denali turboprop is a high priority program for Textron Aviation, so it’s a huge but exciting responsibility.”

It’s been nearly five years of work for many on the Denali Core Team and that time and investment means passion.

“We’re all personally connected to the Denali turboprop,” IT Senior Specialist Mark Thomas said. “It’s more than an airplane for those of us involved. It’s a collection of work from tons of people and the relationships that you build.”

Dorner equated the project to other legacy designs when he said, “KING AIR turboprops, CARAVAN turboprops, those have been around for a very long time and I fully believe that the Denali turboprop will be the next one of those. It’s an advanced turboprop and I believe it will be here for a long time. I think someday I’ll be telling my grandkids, ‘I was on that team.’”

Braaten added, “We’re doing something that’s unique. This is a brand-new clean-sheet airplane and when we’re done, I can say our team did that. That’ll be out there for who knows how long. Long past my lifespan, I’m sure.”

For some, it could be their future left seat.

“Because I have my pilot’s license and enjoy the plane aspect of this business, with the Denali turboprop, maybe it’s something I’ll be flying in the future,” Bednar added.

When that moment comes for the Denali aircraft to leap into the air for the first time, this team says it will be emotional.

“Hair tingling. It happens every time,” Krubsack said. “Every time I go to a first flight that I’ve been a part of, it really tingles the hair on the back of your neck and just gives you the enthusiasm that you get about every five years.”

Thomas added, “The first flight is that magic moment culminating years of work.”

As that moment nears, the Denali Core Team says it wants to highlight one other thing. It’s not just the core team behind this aircraft. It’s hundreds of employees on various shifts doing any number of duties who are making this innovative dream come alive.