Blackhawk King Air engine replacement keeps costs down

 - August 24, 2007, 11:02 AM

If your King Air 200 is coming up on its second or–worse–third PT6A-41 engine overhaul, you might find the numbers daunting. Fortunately, Blackhawk Modifications of Waco, Texas, offers an alternative in the form of an STC that is far more operator friendly.

Blackhawk specializes in engine upgrades for the turboprop fleet and since 2000 has upgraded more than 100 aircraft with more powerful and efficient engines. Not long ago the company announced the Blackhawk 200xp STC, which allows the operator to remove the old Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-41 engines and replace them with factory-new PT6A-42s. The company has done nine conversions in the eight months since the STC has been approved.

Significant Cost Savings
According to Jim Allmon, president and CEO, the upgrade gives the King Air 200 the performance of a B200. “We developed this STC because most of the -41 engines in service are coming up on their third overhaul,” he told AIN. “In the second and third overhauls you’re cycling out a lot of the engine’s parts. Many of those engines will have the 8,000-cycle disk, and they’re getting very close to overhaul.”

Allmon said replacing the disks on both engines can cost as much as $800,000. “We’ll sell you two factory-new PT6A-42 engines for $798,000; it’s the same engine used on the B200,” he said. “This gives the owner two new engines and an increase in performance of about 10 to 15 knots at cruise. It is an incredible offer because these engines brand new carry a list price of about $600,000 per engine or $1.2 million for the pair.”

Allmon said the company’s contract with Pratt & Whitney Canada is the reason it can provide the engines at the lower cost. “We signed a deal in which we agreed to purchase 200 new PT6-42 engines from them over the next five years. Doing so gave us a significant discount which we in turn pass on to the buyer.

“We’re getting a lot of pressure from the overhaulers; they are not happy about what we’re doing, but it requires an STC and we invested about $600,000 to develop one.”

Allmon said his company doesn’t do the installation. It will ship the engines to any P&WC shop in the world. The buyer should anticipate total installation costs for both engines to be about $15,000 in addition to the old cores. If there’s time remaining on the engine, the buyer will be credited up to $60 per hour per engine for every hour remaining against the factory TBO.

An independent financial analysis conducted by Conklin & de Decker indicated that the STC provides more power at altitude, higher cruising speed at altitude, the potential for reduced operating costs and the potential for enhanced resale value.

According to the analysis, at ISA the -42 engine will deliver full takeoff torque up to about 14,000 feet. In normal cruise configuration it will produce 2,230 foot-pounds of torque up to 16,000 feet, and at 28,000 feet it still produces 1,580 foot-pounds, the equivalent of 17 percent more power than the PT6A-41 in the same conditions.

For the purposes of the analysis, the author calculated a 600-nm trip with four passengers and NBAA IFR fuel reserves for a 200-nm alternate. The cruise altitude selected was 26,000 feet at 1800 rpm. The takeoff to touchdown time for the -41 engines was two hours, 16.2 minutes; that number was reduced to two hours, 10.3 minutes with the conversion. Average speed was 264 knots for the original versus 276 knots for the conversion. The average fuel burn increased from 91 gph to 99 gph.

According to Conklin & de Decker, the significant item is the reduction in engine costs. The PT6A-42 has a TBO of 3,600 versus 3,000 hours. Comparing a defined set of criteria for both aircraft configurations based upon 100,000 nm per year, the analysis calculated the 10-year average costs and determined the conversion to reduce the non-fuel cost per flight hour from $806.49 to $688.99. At a fuel cost of $4.75 per gallon the overall annual cost savings would be approximately $50,000 per year.

The report’s conclusion stated, “Our analysis shows that for a King Air 200 operator whose next engine overhaul requires replacement of time- and cycle-limited components, an engine upgrade to the PT6A-42 is the preferred alternative. The operator need not wait until that overhaul to realize the financial advantages of this program, which are significant.”