New turboprop sales continue their slow, steady climb out of the cellar. For the first six months of this year, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) reports sales of the segment are up 10.5 percent compared with the same period one year ago, with 243 delivered. Hawker Beechcraft King Airs, Pilatus PC-12s and Cessna Caravans lead the pack, as usual. All three represent fully amortized designs that have stood the test of decades and benefited from the occasional engine and/or avionics upgrade. They exemplify why the market historically turns to turboprops: rugged construction, simple systems, good operating economics and loads of mission utility. The segment is also characterized by slow product evolution. Nevertheless, change for this sector is in the wind on several fronts.
The first involves the modernization of existing aircraft. The OEMs are no longer content to let the mod centers have all the fun–and profits.