Singapore Air Show

King Air Leads Buoyant Beechcraft Line-up

 - February 12, 2014, 2:40 AM
Beechcraft’s King Air family is 50 years old but the twin turboprops still have plenty to offer a wide variety of operators.

This week Beechcraft posted its fourth-quarter and end-of-year results, showing the significant increases that brought 2013 to a successful close. The figures were welcome to the company as it ended its first year of trading as a stand-alone entity, prior to the expected acquisition by Textron that is due to be completed in the first half of this year. The Wichita, Kansas-based company delivered 205 civil aircraft in 2013, compared with 125 in 2012. Adding to 2013’s figure was the delivery of 34 military trainer aircraft.

Following these encouraging results, Beechcraft is displaying at Singapore hot on the heels of a major anniversary for the company. On January 20 it celebrated the 50th birthday of the first flight of one of its most iconic products: the King Air. Half a century on and the King Air remains a highly popular aircraft that continues to capture more than half of the global business turboprop market each year.

As well as its passenger transport assignments, the King Air has become the platform of choice for many special missions. Around one-fifth of the more than 6,000 King Airs currently in service are configured for one special duty or another, many of them serving with U.S. and other armed forces. Asia Pacific is a key area for sales of such King Air, with deliveries increasing to 79 in the 2009-2013 period, compared to 34 in the previous five years. Of the 2009-2013 sales, 45 percent have been for training and 20 percent for air ambulance. The roles of flight inspection, surveillance, utility and aerial survey account for 11, 10, eight and six percent, respectively.

Demand for aircraft configured for such tasks continues to grow. “We anticipate demand for special-mission aircraft configurations to increase for a number of reasons, including advances in technology, which allow smaller aircraft to be used in various applications,” reported Dan Keady, senior v-p, Beechcraft Special Missions. “Other factors fueling growth include companies increasingly looking for business aircraft that can be used in multiple roles; growth in air travel, which is fueling demand for air calibration/flight inspection aircraft; and increased demand for aircraft that can be used for ISR purposes to secure country borders.”

King Airs representing both business areas are on display here, a King Air 250 business aircraft and the company’s King Air 350ER special missions demonstrator. Accompanying them is an AT-6 demonstrator. This aircraft is a multi-role light attack/ISR platform based on the T-6 trainer, but with advanced integrated avionics, sensor suite and uprated PT6A-68D engine.