After 50 Years, King Air Still Reigns Supreme in T-props

 - January 21, 2014, 3:15 PM
On January 20, Beechcraft celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first flight of its King Air 90. The turboprop twin was certified just four months later, in May 1964, and in the first customer’s hands that July. Nearly 7,200 King Airs have been delivered since, and current-production variants include the Model C90GTx, 250 and 350i. (Photo: Beechcraft)

Beechcraft celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the King Air 90 prototype yesterday with three-aircraft formation fly-bys of the company’s current-production King Airs–the C90GTx, 250 and 350i–over its home base at Beech Field in Wichita. The King Air is the best-selling business aircraft in the world, with nearly 7,200 delivered and more than 60 million flight hours logged worldwide.

“The significance of that first flight 50 years ago cannot be overstated, nor can the work of Beechcrafters over the past five decades to turn that one model into the legendary King Air brand,” said Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture. “The King Air [still] captures more than 50 percent of the worldwide business turboprop market each year. Today’s celebration launches a year-long commemoration of the King Air legacy.”

Company pilots flew the conforming King Air 90 prototype on Jan. 20, 1964, watched at Beech Field by thousands of Beechcraft employees, Wichita residents and local and state dignitaries. The King Air obtained FAA certification four months later, on May 27, and customer deliveries began in July that year.

King Airs serve both civilian and defense customers in such roles as personnel transport, cargo, electronic and imagery surveillance, air ambulance, airway calibration, photographic mapping, training and weather modification.

Derivatives of the King Air 90 include the Model 100 (entered service Sept. 17, 1969), 200 (March 27, 1974), 300 (Aug. 25, 1983) and 350 (March 7, 1990).