Fresh off the shedding of its business jet division, Beechcraft Corp., in its first major international show since its February restructuring, is turning its focus at ABACE on its market-leading turboprop division. According to company chairman, president and CEO and Shawn Vick, Beechcraft has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection with 80 percent less debt and the ability to triple its research investment. The world’s largest turboprop manufacturer, Beechcraft can trace its involvement in the China market back to 1938, when the Chinese government ordered a fleet of Beech D-17 Staggerwings equipped as aerial ambulances, in one of history’s first examples of a mission-specific aircraft. In its more than 80-year existence, Beechcraft has delivered more than 54,000 aircraft.
Today, the Wichita, Kansas-based company (Chalet 360) claims 64 percent of Asia Pacific turboprop fleet, according to a recent report from industry data analyst JetNet. Of a total 660 business turboprops in the region, 421 are Beechcraft aircraft. Over the past five years, deliveries of the company’s twin-engine King Airs to Asia have increased by 41 percent over the 2007-2011period. “We have been an active part of this dynamic market for many decades and in terms of long-term growth, it is no surprise that Asia Pacific represents one of the most exciting markets for us,” said Richard Emery, Beechcraft’s recently named president of sales for Asia Pacific, Europe, Middle East and Africa.” We’re seeing increased sales activity for our piston and turboprop aircraft in China and the broader region, so there clearly is a developing appetite for shorter range smaller aircraft and we are aiming to further our leadership position in this market.”
Presently there are 400 King Airs in operation in Asia, including 22 in China. As the use of business aviation within China continues to grow, the company believes it is well suited to provide the most economical option for short regional flights. “The King Air remains the most successful line of business and special-mission aircraft in production today, bar none,” said Vick, noting that the King Air series currently claims 41 percent of the worldwide business turboprop market. Here at ABACE, the company announced that the fleet of more than 7,000 of the turboprop twins operated in 127 countries around the world has surpassed 60 million flight hours.
The manufacturer is showing off its entire King Air family in the static display. The King Air 350ER on exhibit is equipped with a medical interior and harkens back to the initial Chinese Beech order of 1938. The aircraft, which is on a world demonstration tour, is the leader in its category in terms of payload and seating of up to nine passengers in airline style chairs.
The B200 is the most popular turbine-powered aircraft in the world, with more than 2,500 delivered. The example on display, the B200GT, is equipped with a corporate interior befitting its popularity as a largely owner-flown aircraft.
Beechcraft also has a long history of producing training aircraft, and the company describes its King Air C-90GTx as a worthy successor of that lineage, with more than 300 C-90s serving in that role worldwide. The aircraft on display is one of two ordered by the Civil Aviation University of China (CAUC) at last year’s ABACE. The CAUC requires all student pilots to have at least 30 hours of multi-engine turbine flight in its advanced airline pilot training program prior to graduation.
On the military side, the airframer noted its successful T-6 trainer, of which more than 800 aircraft are in service training pilots in 25 countries. The fleet has accumulated 1.5 million hours.
In terms of customer service support, Beechcraft has a network of 80 authorized service centers for the entire lines of Hawker jets and Beechcraft turboprops, including one in Shanghai, a parts stocking center in Beijing and a parts distribution center with a $2.5 million inventory in Singapore.
Vick said the company remains committed to providing service and upgrades to its aircraft as an integral part of its business strategy going forward, citing its remanufactured Beechcraft 400XPR program, which is expected to complete its final certification flight test program in the third quarter. According to Vick, deliveries are expected begin shortly after, and the company’s 2013 positions are sold out.o