Sunday, May 1, 2005
The Littlest King Air
Fifty years of continuous production point out the importance of a twin turbine.
Too often, it seems the aviation press gives short shrift to one of the most important segments of business flying. Turboprops have long been the forgotten stepchild of corporate aviation. To paraphrase comedian Rodney Dangerfield, “Turboprops just can’t get no respect.”
Early model 90 King Airs got something of a bad rap for being slow, and it’s true that the type’s wide, tall cabin does exact a price. Aerodynamicists call the phenomenon equivalent flat plate area, essentially the drag of the entire aircraft translated to an equivalent plate, and the C90B has plenty of it.
As with most turbine aircraft, the C90B offers a variety of fuel/passenger/range configurations. Max cruise on the current C90B is listed at 246 knots at 16,000 feet, provided you’re willing to pour 88 gph through the engines. With max fuel capacity set at 384 gallns (2,573 pounds), that means you would be limited to three hours of endurance plus alternate plus reserve.
Load up the cabin with all the people and baggage you can carry, and range is reduced to less than 200 nm. Conversely, fly with full fuel and only three souls on board, and you can reach out and touch 1,200 nm.
The good news is that corporate travel rarely demands heavy passenger loads or long range. A few years ago, the National Business Aircraft Association surveyed its membership and determined that the average passenger load was only 3.2 and the average stage length for all types of aircraft was only 352 nm. Remember that includes Gulfstream GIIIs at the top of the class, so the operational average for most of the class may be even shorter.
What has endeared the King Air 90 to the last two generations of pilots is the way it flies rather than how fast it can transit from Houston to Jacksonville, Fla. The airplane has long had a deserved reputation as one of the most comfortable corporate transports in the sky. No matter what the passenger load, the King Airs are among the most sumptuous and luxurious vehicles available. Pressurization remains at 5.0 psi, adequate to provide a sea-level cabin to 11,000 feet or a 10,000-foot cabin at FL250. (Technically, service ceiling is just under 29,000 feet, but the airplane does its best work in the low to mid-20,000s.)
There’s something to be said for control harmony, and Beechcraft products have always enjoyed some of the best in-flight handling in the industry. Pilots consistently praise the King Airs for their remarkable stability and predictable control response. The type is almost universally regarded as among the most stable of instrument platforms, as easy to nail onto an ILS in choppy weather as it is to grease onto a smooth, asphalt runway.
For 2005, the King Air C90B is virtually alone in the twin-turboprop class. Pilatus and SOCATA offer single-engine jetprops, but if you’re looking to fly behind two turbines coupled to propellers, there’s currently no competition for the littlest King Air.
For more information, contact Raytheon Aircraft Company at (316) 676-5034 or log on to www.raytheonaircraft.com.
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