Pilot Journal
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Power Trip

King Air Upgrades Spur Aftermarket Action

Picking Powerplants
Blackhawk initially selected PT6A-61 engines, which power the Piper Cheyenne IIIA, for the King Air 200/B200 upgrade; Dash 61s could deliver 300-knot speed and also fit in the existing cowl, simplifying and minimizing installation costs. A pair of four-blade Raisbeck/Hartzell Quiet Turbofan propellers—part of the upgrade package—delivers more thrust than the three-blade Hartzells mated to the -41s, while reducing noise and vibration.

As Blackhawk began marketing the conversion, P&W revealed that it was about to introduce the -52 engine. The -61 and -52 are identical, except that the -52 is certified with an ITT operating limit of 820 degrees, versus 800 degrees for the -61. Blackhawk offers customers their choice of either engine. The -52’s higher certified temp means more power, but P&W charges about $40,000 more for it. The owners of 200VA opted for the -52s, but operators typically have to back off power at altitude to keep the airspeed from exceeding the max Mach number, so many customers choose the -61 and save the price difference.

The Case For Conversion
The conversion choice can be quite compelling for owners of old engines near TBO. For example, 200VA’s 13,000-hour engines were near overhaul when a piece of metal of indeterminate origin was found in one engine.

“We were told the price for overhaul would probably be in excess of $900,000, because work needed to be done about the metal they found,” Winkler says.

Meanwhile, for about $900,000 installed (plus trade-in on the old engines), the owners got brand-new engines under warranty and the four-blade props, and will now save on operating and maintenance costs. Besides engines, props and new exhaust stacks (either Frakes or Hawker Beechcraft D4 stacks), the only change the upgrade requires is swapping the analog ITT (oil-temp and -pressure) and NG (percent power) engine gauges to digital gauges. (The rest of the engine gauges can be replaced with digital Blackhawk gauges as an option.) Conversions typically take two weeks and are performed at authorized Blackhawk service facilities. Turboprop East (www.turboprop.com) in North Adams, Mass., installed 200VA’s upgrade.

“We climbed straight up to 28K,” Winkler says, recalling the postupgrade test flight. “We let it go at 1,800 rpm, and it just walked right up past the barber pole. We’re sitting there going, ‘This is awesome!’”

I’m having a similar reaction as our initial climb rate shows about 2,400 fpm at 150 knots. Handed off from Allen-town Departure, New York Center clears us to one-seven, then two-eight thousand. We briefly stop at FL270 for traffic, yet still arrive at 280 in 16 minutes.

“Before [installing] these engines, I was never able to get above 27,000 feet,” Winkler says. “It climbed at just 500 fpm above 18,000 feet, and once we got up to 27,000, it was very squirrely, because there wasn’t a whole lot of airflow over the control surfaces.”


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