Stevens sees future in King Air 200 upgrades

 - May 9, 2008, 4:55 AM

Armed with the largest single contract in its 52-year history–converting 19 U.S. Army King Air C-12 flight decks from “analog to glass”–Stevens Aviation anticipates “substantial” demand for a similar upgrade among the operators of some 800 to 850 civilian-equivalent King Air 200s in service worldwide.

According to Stevens avionics specialist and project manager Jim Williams, work on the first two Army aircraft has already begun. The process involves stripping out the old analog instruments and replacing them with a new Rockwell Collins FDS 2000 with five 5-in. flat-screen displays, Collins ADC 3000 air data computer, Collins turbulence and weather radar, Collins TCAS, Honeywell TAWS, cockpit voice and data recorders from L-3, Collins 400A GPS and new mode-S transponders.

For a civilian King Air 200, the avionics upgrade is priced at about $1 million uninstalled, “depending on the age of the aircraft and some other variables.”

The work is being done at Stevens’ headquarters facility at Donaldson Center Industrial Airpark in Greenville, S.C. The first aircraft rolled into the Stevens hangar on September 15 and at the rate of two airplanes every 10 weeks, the last Army King Air 200 upgrade will be delivered in spring 2004.

Williams said Stevens is already receiving civilian inquiries about the upgrade and anticipates a ready market among civilian owners of King Air 200s, in particular those whose aircraft have already had the PT6A-42 engine upgrade.

Stevens also has STCs to perform the engine upgrade and install Raisbeck mods, and the company can do an interior refurbishment and new paint as well.

Stevens is counting on a substantial number of loyal King Air owners who have no intention of upgrading to a jet but would like to improve the performance of their aging 200. Low-time used King Air 200s can currently be found for about $1 million. Adding the engine upgrade at a cost of $1 million, the avionics upgrade at another $1 million, and the Raisbeck performance enhancement core package for $100,000, said Williams, gives the customer the performance and avionics equivalent of a King Air B200. A new B200 is priced at about $4.6 million. And there is the advantage of the depreciation allowance on upgrades to the older 200, he noted. “For a King Air 200 owner who plans to keep the airplane but would like a little more performance and the advantages of new avionics, the upgrades make sense,” claimed Williams.

Beech built 912 King Air 200s for the civilian market between 1974 and 1981, and an estimated 800 to 850 are still in service.