EBACE Convention News

King Air Leads Beechcraft Revival

 - May 20, 2013, 11:57 AM
Beechcraft is powering out of its recent emergence from bankruptcy with a strong first quarter and a growing orderbook. (Photos: David McIntosh)

Since it exited a 10-month restructuring process and Chapter 11 protection in February, the rebranded Beechcraft (formerly Hawker Beechcraft) has performed well and is even looking at possible new models to bolster its turboprop line-up. It reported strong first-quarter results that bode well for the future health of the company, and in the first three months of 2013 it delivered 59 turboprop and piston aircraft, compared to 37 in the corresponding period in 2012–placing Beechcraft (Booth 7060) as the third-ranking business aircraft manufacturer by deliveries. At the same time it took more orders than it has at any time during the past three years.

The Wichita, Kansas-based manufacturer also handed over the final six Hawker 4000s in the quarter, signaling the end of jet production–for now at least. While it has strongly reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the Hawker line of jet aircraft, the company has also placed the Premier and 4000 type certificates up for sale to qualified entities.

Beechcraft has brought a wide range of its products to EBACE, including the Baron and Bonanza piston airplanes. The company announced here in Geneva yesterday that alternative fuel versions could be available from the end of next year and also alluded to ongoing studies for three new aircraft at the lower end of the size scale to complement its existing portfolio. While there are no specific details yet, the plans highlight the tripling of investment being made by the company.

Deliveries and Upgrades

Of the first-quarter deliveries, 34 were King Air variants (350i, 350ER, 250, C90GTx), highlighting the importance of the type to Beechcraft’s success. More than 7,000 have been built, operating in 127 countries around the world, and the fleet just topped 60 million flight hours. Currently 462 of those King Airs are flying in Europe (including 78 each in France and Germany and 74 in the UK), where the type has 41 percent of the business turboprop market. Worldwide that figure climbs to 53 percent.

As well as providing new-build aircraft, Beechcraft also supports a number of King Air upgrades. The company’s Global Customer Support organization announced that its facilities are now authorized installation centers for the Halo 250 upgrade. Developed by CenTex Aerospace of Waco, Texas, and certified in October 2012, the Halo 250 modification increases the maximum takeoff weight of the King Air 200 to 13,420 pounds from 12,500 pounds. The upgrade is compatible with other packages, such as the Garmin G1000 or Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics upgrades, as well as other popular King Air STCs such as BLR winglets, Raisbeck modifications and Blackhawk engine programs.

In addition to its business and utility transport applications, the King Air has been the platform for myriad special-mission conversions, from air ambulance to intelligence, reconnaissance, surveillance (ISR). Those capabilities are also being highlighted at EBACE. Beechcraft’s own King Air 350ER special-missions demonstrator is currently in the midst of a worldwide tour to showcase the King Air’s suitability for a range of duties and features a medical station and representative maritime patrol console. As well as King Air conversions, Beechcraft is also promoting the Baron as a special-mission ISR platform.