Beechcraft provided an update on the company’s fortunes and handed over the keys to the first King Air 350i ordered by membership aircraft access provider Wheels Up on Monday at its static display at Henderson Executive Airport. The Wheels Up order, together with aftermarket support, is worth up to $1.4 billion, according to the parties.
Beechcraft, which emerged from bankruptcy in February, has eight propeller-driven aircraft on display at Henderson Executive Airport, representing its full line of piston-engine, turboprop, special-mission and military aircraft, as well as a classic 1943 Staggerwing. In addition to the 350i in Wheels Up livery, the display includes three additional King Air variants: the 350ER special-mission demonstrator, plus a King Air 250 and a C90GTX, both civilian aircraft. A twin-engine Baron G58 and single engine G36 represent its piston line, while the single-engine turboprop AT-6 light attack aircraft and T-6 trainer are showcasing Beechcraft’s military offerings.
Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture reported a 47 percent increase in aircraft deliveries year to date, with 48 deliveries recorded in the third quarter, including 15 King Air 350i/ER turboprops, 10 T-6A/B/C military trainers and eight Bonanza G36 single-engine pistons. “Beechcraft’s strong third quarter continues the positive momentum we have experienced throughout the year,” he said, adding that King Airs enjoy a 94-percent market share in the twin-turboprop category. He also said that the company has increased its product-development spending on the model by a factor of three from the 2010/2011 timeframe.
The company hosted its inaugural King Air operators conference in September, drawing almost 200 King Air owners, operators and maintenance experts to its headquarters in Wichita, Kan. Among future plans, Boisture said the company remains committed to developing a single-engine civilian turboprop, if it makes market sense.
Beechcraft ended its Hawker business jet production as part of its bankruptcy reorganization, and Boisture said the company has been in the process of selling some Hawker assets, including the Hawker 4000 and Premier jet lines, and that the company is “dangerously close to being finished” with the sale; he now expects it will close this quarter, but declined to name the prospective purchaser.
The Hawker Beechcraft service centers continue to provide customer support for all of the jets previously manufactured by Hawker Beechcraft, but Boisture noted “whether the new owner will continue to employ us in that role is yet to be determined.”
Bloomberg, the financial news and data provider, has reported that Beechcraft itself, controlled by former creditors, is for sale, with Credit Suisse Group approaching potential buyers. Asked about the report, Boisture said, “We’ve got a very valuable company here, and it wouldn’t be unusual for rumors to be occurring [that investors are] looking for that value.” But he categorized the reports as “rumors and speculation… we have no comment.”