Paris Air Show

King Air set for special missions

 - December 15, 2006, 6:44 AM

Making its first flight just days before the show, the Beechcraft King Air 350ER special mission aircraft is making a debut appearance here at Le Bourget. Building on Raytheon’s extensive experience in producing some 3,000-plus aircraft in this category, the 350ER differs from its predecessors in offering a total solution in terms of both platform and payload. Thus customers will have the advantage of sourcing an aircraft in which a single supplier has integrated airframe, electronics and special-mission payloads.

John Brauneis, Raytheon’s vice president special mission systems, told Aviation International News that certification of the 350ER is anticipated early in 2006, with deliveries of fully equipped aircraft expected the following year. However, Brau-neis noted that a 16,500-pound-mtow version of the King Air 350 has already been FAA certificated and only minor refinements will be needed before the definitive version is ready.

One distinguishing feature of the 350ER is the overwing engine nacelle fuel lockers that enable the aircraft to transit 100 miles to and from the mission area and spend more than seven hours on station at a height of 4,000 feet before returning to base. These tanks are to be further aerodynamically refined after the aircraft returns to America. Here at Paris the development aircraft includes another distinguishing feature in the mission sensor pod that has yet to be equipped, but Raytheon’s Space and Airborne Systems’ Seaview radar and retractable FLIR will be installed upon the aircraft’s return to the United States.

The integrated sensor suite will detect, track, classify and identify surface contacts, while long-range ship detection and imaging, as well as identification of small ocean targets in high sea states are among the 350ER’s many capabilities.

However, other radar and communications options will be available if the customer or supplier is willing to fund the integration and certification costs. But the Collins Pro Line 21 fully integrated avionics is standard equipment on the 350ER, significantly reducing pilot workload and enhancing flight control.

With a larger pressurized cabin than the earlier King Air 200 Maritime, the 350ER can accommodate up to seven operators including two pilots. Galley and lavatory facilities allow crews to work comfortably and efficiently for longer periods but consideration is being given to the provision of a data link to enable a smaller crew to be carried.

As well as undertaking maritime surveillance, the 350ER is being promoted for flight inspection, multimission and border surveillance roles.