Pilot Journal
Friday, July 1, 2005

“301 Knots!”

Take the Beech Duke, add turbines, and you get that magical number

301 knotsIt’s a magic number and one not often seen in turboprop corporate aircraft. A bare handful of propjets can touch 300 knots in cruise—the Piper Cheyenne 400LS, Commander 1000, Mitsubishi Solitaire, Beech Starship and King Air 350, and the Socata TBM 700.
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Pricing on the conversion is preliminary, but Conrad speculates the entry-level PT6A-21s will cost about $767,000. Conversion with the -35 engines will cost approximately $887,000. “Basically, the -35 conversion is the same as that of the -21s,” explains Conrad. “We merely pass along the higher engine costs to the customers. Either way, plan on about 90 days of downtime for the conversion.”

In other words, start with a $150,000 to $200,000 Duke, buy the Royal Turbine conversion for $887,000, and you could be in a 300-knot, six-seat, twin turboprop for just over $1 million, albeit one fitted with two new engines. Okay, the airframe is hardly new, but a million bucks won’t buy you anything like the same performance from a 20-year-old Piper Cheyenne III or a 25-year-old Cessna Conquest II. Also, you’ll typically be flying behind older, unwarranteed engines and may be susceptible to higher maintenance.

It’s interesting that the least expensive Royal Turbine’s price makes it far less expensive than the oldest SOCATA TBM-700, a single-engine turboprop. Of course, some pilots prefer two engines, and others, movie stars, executives and captains of industry, are mandated by employment contracts not to fly in any single-engine airplane. The two most important questions are: 1) How much turbine reliability are you willing to pay for?; and 2) How much hourly operating cost can you afford?

As avgas becomes progressively more expensive and less available, more pilots of upscale singles and twins are looking for alternatives. Turboprops are here and now, and Conrad’s Royal Turbine effectively brings the reliability and performance of a high-performance turboprop to the piston crowd.

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