Hawker Beech unveils 450XP, King Air 350i

 - October 5, 2008, 4:03 PM

Hawker Beechcraft took the wraps off the Hawker 450XP and King Air 350i here yesterday. Both aircraft enjoy cabin makeovers for the people in back who pay the bills and, in the case of the revamped Hawker, the pilots up front will get Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics and more modern engines.

Charles Mayer moved to Hawker Beechcraft earlier this year from Maserati and Cadillac, and in his capacity as vice president of marketing with the venerable Wichita manufacturer he brought some automotive-style razzle-dazzle to the press introduction here yesterday.

Four attractive young women in black dresses unveiled the easel boards for each new airplane, and the improvements were pronounced to be “category-busting technology.” Seventeen months after its acquisition by Goldman Sachs and Onex, the staid, button-down Wichita OEM had a brief flash of New York International Auto Show sizzle at the staid, button-down NBAA Convention. What would Olive Ann have thought?

Well, the cabins of the new airplanes are, if nothing else, an acknowledgment of the shift in generational spending power. It’s probably fair to speculate that some of the people who end up flying in these latest versions of familiar aircraft have never heard of the Staggerwing or Walter and Olive Ann Beech. Both the 350i and 450XP adopt Rockwell Collins’ Venue cabin infotainment integrated management system, which is designed from the outset to handle the media of today–iPods, XM Satellite Radio, CDs and Blu-ray DVDs, X-boxes and Play-Stations playing on multiple high-definition screens with home-theater-quality sound.

The King Air 350i introduces some extensive soundproofing measures that will reduce average cabin noise from the 82 dBA typical of most light jets and turboprops to 78 dBA, Hawker Beechcraft claims. The company calls this its Serenity System, and it adds quarter-inch-thick skin dampening material, dynamic sound absorbers and an interior shell that floats on vibration-isolating absorbers worth 4 dB in noise reduction. LED lighting and electrochromic window darkening add to the “serenity now” ambiance of the cabin.

In the back of the big turboprop twin will be a “midsize jet”-type lavatory, noted Hawker Beechcraft president of commercial sales Brad Hatt, and the Flexcabin double-club-four cabin layout can be reconfigured for more spacious comfort–for example, by removing one seat and replacing it with an ottoman. The Super King Air 350i is slated to fly for the first time later this month, with certification and first deliveries following in the third quarter of next year. The price tag is $6.526 million, “very well equipped.” This latest edition of the King Air will join 6,000 of its brethren still flying since the King Air was introduced in 1964.

Emphasizing the fuel efficiency of the twin turboprop, Hatt said, “We were green before green was cool,” adding that, compared with a light jet, the King Air 350i can move 55 percent more payload per gallon of fuel.

Hatt noted that in market research studies, customers’ overriding message to Hawker Beechcraft was “update avionics and interiors, and give us more speed and range.” The two airplanes revealed here yesterday heed that call.

What does the “i” stand for in 350i? According to Hatt, “intelligent, improved, impressive, invaluable, iconic, ideal.”

The airplane formerly known as the Diamond and Beechjet and Hawker 400XP better lives up to its current name in 450XP guise, with what Hatt calls its “big-Hawker interior styling.”

The new model also bids adieu to the Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15Ds that have powered all iterations of the airplane thus far, replacing them with Fadec PW535Ds that are 10 percent more fuel efficient and improve range and climb performance. Both the original and new engines are rated at 2,965 pounds thrust, but flat-rating allows the PW535s on the 450XP to produce that power up to ISA +20 degrees C versus ISA +12 degrees C for the JT15Ds.

Compared with their predecessors, the new engines will allow the 450XP (carrying four passengers, 85-percent Boeing winds, ISA en route) to fly 235 nm farther from Hilton Head on a 95-degree F day, 500 nm farther from Denver and 630 nm farther from 5,600-foot-elevation Samedan’s 5,905-foot-long runway in Switzerland. Hatt noted that the 450XP’s eight-passenger cabin has 22 cu ft more volume than the Cessna Citation CJ3’s cabin.

In climb, the 450XP will reach FL370 four minutes more quickly (14 minutes versus 18). The 450XP will emit 76 percent fewer hydrocarbons and 45 percent less carbon monoxide, and its ESP hourly costs will be 12 percent lower than those of the JT15D. TBO goes up by 1,400 hours, to 5,000 hours on the PW535. Long-range cruise speed goes up, from 414 knots to 421 knots, and mtow climb to 16,650 pounds from 16,300, allowing operators to carry 350 pounds more fuel with max payload.

Range improves by nearly 9 percent on the 450XP to more than 1,600 nm with four pax, NBAA IFR reserves and 100-nm alternate. Hot-and-high performance is improved, thanks to the engine flat-rating: departing a 5,000-foot elevation airport at 77 degrees F, the 450XP will yield a four-passenger range of more than 1,600 nm–24 percent better than the 400XP.

The Pro Line 21 avionics include three eight- by 10-inch LCDs, dual FMS, WAAS, Chart Link and an IFIS file server.

With a “very well equipped” price tag of $7.695 million (in 2010 dollars), the Hawker 450XP is slated to fly in the second quarter of next year, with certification and first deliveries a year later.