Beech Duke's "Air" Apparent

 - April 18, 2007, 9:24 AM

Rocket Engineering of Spokane, Wash.–the company involved in the Piper Malibu JetProp DLX Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A conversion–is at it again. This time Rocket has been quietly working for the past two years on a P&WC PT6A-35-powered Beechcraft Duke BE60 conversion. The company said initial tests have shown that the re-engined six-seat light twin, dubbed the Royal Turbine, is much improved over the original Lycoming TIO-541-powered Duke. Rocket said the piston engines are the "Achilles' heel" of the Duke, which was introduced in 1967. Preliminary performance of the Royal Turbine includes a 301-knot maximum cruise speed, versus 246 knots for a stock Duke; 4,000-fpm climb rate compared with 1,601 fpm; 7,000-pound mtow versus 6,775 pounds; 2,520-pound useful load compared with 1,849 pounds; and a 1,200-nm max range versus 640 nm. According to Rocket Engineering, the conversion costs $887,000 and pre-owned Dukes are currently selling for about $150,000. Initial flight tests of a Royal Turbine are currently under way, with STC approval expected later this summer.