Beechcraft has sold more than 50 King Air twin turboprops for special missions this year, according to Dan Keady, the company’s senior v-p for special missions. “That’s double last year’s total,” he told AIN.
The company’s definition of special missions includes pilot training, maritime search and surveillance, reconnaissance, mapping, signal intelligence, drug interdiction, aerial survey and medical evacuation, as well as cargo and high-density passenger transport. “As the electronics packages become lighter and more sophisticated, customers are finding more uses, most recently oil spill and pollution detection,” said Keady.
Beechcraft’s most recent offer is the King Air 350ER, introduced in 2011. It has a range of approximately 2,500 nm and endurance of seven to 10 hours. Six 350/350ERs have been supplied to Iraq, where Beechcraft has established a new service and maintenance center in Baghdad to support the Iraqi air force. Beechcraft claims that the overall special-mission fleet in Iraq flies more than 300 hours a month with a dispatch rate of 98.9 percent. Beechcraft’s Global Mission Support division provides service for the aircraft operating in special missions in Iraq, but Keady noted that many other governments and military units choose to provide their own service and support.
Earlier this year, Beechcraft won an $18.6 million, follow-on contract to support a fleet of five special-mission King Airs equipped with more rugged landing gear, long-range nacelle-mounted fuel tanks and radar built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems in San Diego.
Beechcraft typically does not install electronics and other special-mission equipment, instead providing “slicks” with modifications to allow for equipment installation by companies such as Aerodata, Boeing, L-3, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Sierra Nevada. Beechcraft claims that a finished and fully equipped 350ER can be delivered in three to ten months, and a slick aircraft in as little as three weeks. “We do produce a number of slicks on speculation,” Keady said.
Beechcraft is also offering the piston-powered Baron G58 for special missions. The first went to the Puerto Rican Police, which has now ordered a second aircraft.