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I remember hearing or reading somewhere that the Cessna Caravan was developed because Fedex had issued an RFP for a light aircraft to carry cargo on shorter routes and to unimproved airstrips. According to whatever I heard/read, that made it unique as the only mass-produced civilian aircraft to be developed based on a customer's request, at a time when manufacturers built aircraft according to their own opinion of what was needed in the market and then tried to sell them.

Is there any truth in this?

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    $\begingroup$ The Wikipedia article says "Working with FedEx, Cessna produced first the Cargomaster, and followed that with the stretched and upgraded Super Cargomaster. The passenger model, the Grand Caravan, was derived from the Super Cargomaster." but is unreferenced. $\endgroup$ – RedGrittyBrick Dec 8 '14 at 10:16
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    $\begingroup$ @RedGrittyBrick Yes, I saw that too but as you said there's no source for it and it doesn't really answer the question of whether Fedex put out a tender for an aircraft or not. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Dec 8 '14 at 14:15
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Evidently, the idea for the Cessna 208 existed before FedEx got involved. Cessna started with a widened and stretched 206 fuselage. It was designed to replace the aging De Havilland Canada Otters, Beavers and Beech 18 aircraft in use with bush operators.

Marketing surveys from the late seventies concluded that a modern, large capacity, rugged single engine aircraft for sale could compete successfully...

They completed the first flying prototype and were expecting orders mainly from the target market of bush operators. However, the CEO of FedEx saw it on the cover of Flying Magazine and sensed opportunity. (Whether this is true or not, FedEx was looking for a small aircraft to replace trucks on some routes, and the Caravan came along at just that time.) Cessna made some changes such as adding a cargo pod to create the Cargomaster. The big orders from FedEx helped to drive the popularity of the Caravan.

So FedEx was not the reason for designing the Caravan in the first place, but it was a big part of the success of the design and did influence some aspects of it.

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