Pilot Journal
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Power Trip

King Air Upgrades Spur Aftermarket Action

With heavy in- and outbound Philadelphia and New York traffic passing overhead, it’s a challenge getting cleared to climb directly to FL280 from Queen City Municipal Airport (KXLL) in Allentown, Pa. That wouldn’t affect operations for most legacy King Air 200 or B200 aircraft, whose slow-climbing Pratt & Whitney PT6A-41 and PT6A-42 engines can’t race up to altitude anyway. But aftermarket options are changing the flight plans for a growing number of King Air pilots.

“I talked to a couple of my buddies over at Allentown Approach/Departure Control. They can give me unrestricted up to 8,000,” Adam Winkler, one such pilot, says as we climb into N200VA, a 1977 King Air 200 outfitted with a Blackhawk XP52 engine upgrade. “And then, as soon as we get off the ground, they’ll talk to New York Center, see if they can just keep it going up to 28.”

Winkler, the 20-something CFI and director of operations at KXLL’s Gateway Aviation (www.gatewayaviation.com), also pilots 200VA for four local businessmen who jointly own the King Air. The owners kindly agreed to let Winkler, a graduate of Florida Institute of Technology’s College of Aeronautics, demonstrate the results of the recent conversion, and that called for an unrestricted climb to altitude. Yet even before taxiing, the upgrade showed its value on a steamy August morning. The King Air’s air-conditioning system requires 61% power from the engines to run; the old engines only reached 57% at idle, making the AC inoperative on the ground. The Dash 52s idle at 62% to 63% power, so we had the cool air blowing as soon as the right engine spooled up.

But air-conditioning is an afterthought for most of the customers at Blackhawk Modifications (www.blackhawk.aero). “The first thing most people think about is speed,” Blackhawk President Jim Allmon had told me about this latest Blackhawk upgrade. “Three hundred knots: That was the magic number King Air pilots wanted, and everyone knows you either go fast or go home.”

The Waco, Texas–based company, founded by Allmon and two partners in 1999, first marketed STC engine upgrades for Cessna Conquests and then King Air C90s before unveiling its Blackhawk King Air 200/B200 conversion option in 2007.


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