We usually bring you larger aircraft than this, but on Saturday we got an up-close look at one of Empire Airlines’ Cessna 208B Super Cargomasters. N752FX (msn: 208B-0517) was built back in 1996, and was on display at the Paine Field Aviation Day show at the eponymous airport. Aviation Day is a small scale air show that features flying displays from warbirds, helicopters, and occasionally heavy jets from Boeing, who’s main wide-body manufacturing facility is located on the north side of the airport.
There are also, typically, static displays of aircraft, mostly smaller props like the Lancair Evolution and Piper Arrow, but also at least one heavy jet from Boeing (this year a 787-8) and sometimes other interesting visitors (this year, a Cessna Citation CJ2 Business Jet was also among the crowd).
Keeping the 787 company was this 208B, along with staff from FedEx and a pilot from Empire Airlines – Jeff Armstrong. Empire flies the 208 and a variety of ATRs to smaller destinations on behalf of FedEx, which leases the aircraft to the Hayden, Idaho-based carrier. Both Armstrong and the other staff were happy to answer questions from the public about the aircraft and what it does, and indeed, gave some insight about the recent upgrades to the 208 fleet.
For one thing, the entire Super Cargomaster fleet is being retrofitted with Garmin G600 avionics suites, bringing a glass cockpit to the 208. For another, the fleet is also being equipped with TKS Ice protection “weeping wing” systems. Both upgrades should make flying in foul weather easier and safer.
FedEx uses more than 250 Super Cargomasters across North America, and several dozen fly with Empire.
Though most of the FedEx Super Cargomasters are not brand new, the type has a large niche almost entirely to itself at present. The 208B is larger and more capacious than any similar aircraft currently in production – like the Pilatus PC-12 and the Qwest Kodiak (similar to the original, shorter Cessna 208), only one of which is offered as a cargo aircraft (the PC-12). The PC-12 is also considerably more expensive ($2.1M Vs. $3.3M new), though it offers higher speeds.
Inside the cockpit:
And the load area:
© Photo: Alex Kwanten