Blackhawk-upgraded Caravan transports leopards

A newly upgraded Cessna 208B Grand Caravan recently completed an unusual first mission that contributed to the preservation of one of Africa’s most beautiful animal species.

Just two weeks after its delivery, the Caravan — the first in Africa to operate with the Blackhawk XP42A performance upgrade package — was used to move a male and female leopard on a 600-mile flight from the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa’s Kruger National Park to the Majete Wildlife Preserve in Malawi.

The aircraft is operated by FliteCare Air Charters, based at Wonderboom National Airport in Pretoria, South Africa.

“It’s great to be a part of this outstanding wildlife conservation mission,” said Jim Allmon, Blackhawk president and CEO. “The XP42A makes it easier to handle unimproved runways and the difficult takeoffs and landings often encountered in Africa.”

The two adult leopards had been caputured while hunting on South African ostrich farms. They spent several weeks at the rehabilitation facility where they received medical exams and inoculations for rabies and other feline diseases. The centre’s staff and volunteers, part of a global effort to ensure the survival of threatened and endangered species, ensured both big cats were healthy and ready for release in the Majete preserve, where they may breed and help to restore a leopard population depleted by decades of illegal poaching. The relocation is part of a major conservation effort by the African Parks Network in cooperation with Malawi’s government that has reintroduced more than 2,500 wild animals to Majete since 2003.

After completing extensive documentation required for the leopard’s transfer, the Caravan completed a short hop from a local airfield to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport to clear customs. The 3.5-hour leg from Kruger over western Mozambique to a private runway near Majete was uneventful for the cats who slept in separate cages.

“All in all, the trip was a great success, and the enthusiasm and assistance from all involved was fantastic,” said Dr. Andre Uys, a conservation service veterinarian. “It was a wonderful exercise to be involved in and great to see the introduction of these magnificent predators into the premiere wildlife destination in Malawi.”

The XP42A upgrade package features a factory-new Pratt & Whitney PT6A-42A engine with 850 continuous shaft horsepower (SHP), and a 1,000-hour, no-calendar-limit Pratt & Whitney warranty. The system also features a new, wide-chord, 100-inch diameter Hartzell four-blade propeller; new composite cowling and high efficiency inlet duct; new 40% larger oil cooler; four-point engine mount ring assembly and all new engine mount isolators; new engine hose kit; new Blackhawk Hawkeye DigiLog engine gauges; and new Frakes exhaust stacks.

The upgrade increased the FliteCare Caravan’s engine power by 25%, according to company officials. The upgrade also doubled the Caravan’s standard rate of climb with less fuel consumption, increased takeoff weight by 4%, improved takeoff performance and safety margins and increased cruise speed by 15%, officials said. Documentation includes a flight manual supplement with full flight test-certified performance and maintenance and repair manuals.

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  1. Kevin Krywko says

    Why didn’t Cessna install a PT6A-52? It has the same size and weight as well as the same SHP as the 42A, yet has better performance numbers (especially in “hot and heavy” condition) and probably better fuel economy to boot.

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