We spend all week walking around the NBAA Convention thinking about business aviation, and at times it feels like there’s more King Airs here than scantily clad models at a car show. But there’s one King Air that stands out from the rest, the one Sierra Nevada Corp. has on static display at NBAA this week.
This is Sierra Nevada’s second year at the show, according to company v-p Joe Fucci. The company does retrofit work for Defense Department customers plus a few international groups. “Sierra Nevada’s most well known product is its modified King Air 300 operated by the U.S. Army’s Task Force Odin in Afghanistan.
When Sierra Nevada mechanics and engineers get their hands on a 350ER for the conversion, they zero out the maintenance and load it with computers, cameras and radars.
Immediately noticeable on the exterior of the King Air at NBAA’s static display is the hump on top of the fuselage and the cameras and storage box below. “We pushed the nose out by three feet to fit the camera in the nose,” a company representative told AIN. “That can retract into the nose if you’re not using it.”
The cameras on Sierra Nevada’s display aircraft more specifically are L-3-subsidiary Wescam-built MX-15s. Depending on which model of cameras are installed, they have a whole host of capabilities, including gyro-stabilization, geo-pointing (the camera will give you the GPS coordinates of what it’s looking at), infrared and night vision, and it can all be done in HD, if needed.
“The hump on the back holds the Ku-Band and other antennas,” the source said. “For as big as it is, it only cuts three knots off the top speed of the aircraft.”
Sierra Nevada’s Joe Fucci said the company also took its services to help with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The company footed the bill for that program. “We were based out of Lakefront Airport in New Orleans,” he said, speaking in the mobile command center the company also brought to the show. “We were able to spot oil and talk to ships directly using the [automated identification system]. We could call them direct from the aircraft and tell them where to go.”
Four people could work from the command center, directing imagery and information downloaded from the aircraft. From the center, it would be sent to wherever it could best serve, according to Fucci. The information was sent to an Internet media host so anyone with the IP address could access the video. “We could even view it on smartphones,” Fucci said.