Caravan DNA From Long Cessna History

Aviation History rarely portrays aircraft successes as bright as it has the Cessna Caravan.  With over 2,450 C208’s built to date from its market entry in 1985, the Caravan has found a home in the category known as “Great Airplanes”. In today’s market the C208 stands as a recognizable icon with few equals, but few know the history and lineage of the  airplane and how it was developed. The brainchild of Cessna executives in the 1970’s, the Caravan was intended to fill the role of a transitional airplane capable of operating diversely in both the unimproved environment as well as in the high density commercial environment.

The forefathers of the Caravan are also diverse and include aircraft built for both the bush and the modern airport world. In 1951 Cessna conducted the first flight of the Cessna 308, which was an entrant in a US Army bid. The 308 had a 47 foot wingspan and a 4200lb GW, which made it an imposing Cessna taildragger.  Powered by a Lycoming 650-580, it generated 375 hp and could carry 1000 pounds over 600 miles, which paved the way for the long range, high payload approach adopted for the Caravan.

The initial Caravan development logically started as an offshoot from the C206/7 modified with a PT6A and a fuselage extension. Very popular, the 207 was a logical starting point as over 620 were built almost entirely for commercial application. Ultimately the expanded 207 effort was abandoned in favor of new design providing a larger platform because the C206/7 didn’t provide the fuel capacity needed in a new utility aircraft.

Once the final Caravan development began the wing and tail section were bought over from the Cessna 303 Crusader.  Looking at the 303 wing and tail cross section, the resemblance is unmistakable. In fact, the only difference is the transition from a cruciform to a conventional fuselage mounted tail. The wing design provided responsive slow speed flying characteristics as well as a suitable top speed.  Furthermore, it was an ideal wet wing design able to carry the amount of fuel (335 Gallons) needed for extended range operations.

First flying in 1982, the prototype airplane, showing its signature look as the “Caravan”, has been incrementally improved through increased engine power, progressively enhanced avionics, added deice systems and the development of varied interior options. Over 2,450 sold and counting, Caravan aircraft have accumulated over 13 million flying hours to date and is growing at over 1 million hours per year.

The Cessna Caravan – Count On it!