Beechcraft’s primary focus at this week’s JetExpo show will be on helping prospective Russian clients shake off any misgivings they might have about traveling in twin-turboprop aircraft. The U.S. manufacturer is displaying a King Air 350i and and C90GTx at Moscow’s Vnukovo-3 Airport and it will be emphasizing the superior operational flexibility and economics that these aircraft can deliver.
According to Scott Plumb, Beechcraft’s sales vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Russia has more than 1,200 airports but more than half of these cannot be used by jets because their runways are too short and/or unpaved. “Yes there is some cultural resistance to turboprops here but we need to talk about the level of technology in our aircraft because when they [clients] look at that alongside the operating economics and the aircraft’s flexibility then the conversation gathers momentum,” he told AIN. Plumb pointed out that the latest King Airs now feature the same Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics found in the cockpits of far more expensive jets.
The King Air 350i is now certified in Russia, and Beechcraft expects to achieve approval for the King Air 250 and C90GTx next year. To this end, Russian aviation officials are preparing to spend two weeks at the company’s Wichita headquarters.
Currently there are only a handful of King Airs in Russia and the CIS, but Plumb expects their number to increase in the next couple of years. He sees three core applications for the aircraft: corporate or VIP transportation; special-missions work such as surveillance, aerial mapping and oil detection; and scheduled commercial operations to connect remote Russian communities with larger cities that already have airline service. There are already a couple of King Airs in Russia doing a mix of aerial mapping and charter work, depending largely on the weather. Plumb also sees a good case for existing jet owners to invest in a King Air to provide access to places the main aircraft can’t reach.
Beechcraft’s main support facility for aircraft in Russia is its service center in Berlin, Germany. It also has field service teams supporting clients from Geneva and a number of operator support agreements with companies throughout Russia.