Pilot Journal
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Rarest King Air


Produced for only seven years in the early ’80s, Beech’s “Little” King Air F90 may have been a bit too good


 

king air
Equipped with dimmable window shades developed by InspecTech, Zagami’s King Air is an ideal corporate transport. The ultraluxurious aircraft is configured for either eight seats and a blue room or 10 seats total, though the CEO rarely needs to carry that many passengers

American Aviation’s turbine ram-air recovery system has been around for nearly a decade, and the initial application of the improved ram-air mod was to Piper Cheyenne turboprops. Six years ago, American applied the same techniques to the Beech 90– and 100–series King Airs, and the performance improvements have been even more dramatic. The American induction system nearly doubles ram-air recovery in normal mode and more than quadruples it in anti-ice mode. The result is 150 pounds of better torque at altitude and an impressive 10 to 15 knots of extra speed.

Zagami says he sees a 2,000- to 2,500-foot improvement in critical altitude and a consistent 15-knot speed increase, plus better climb and lower ITTs. “You might not think a simple ram-air recovery enhancement and cleaner stacks would make such a pronounced difference,” says Zagami, “but nearly every parameter of performance and efficiency benefits. I can now realize full torque on an ISA plus 15 day, something I couldn’t even consider before.

“With the American Aviation mods, my F90 is never temp-limited—it climbs better and the Pratts run cooler to a higher critical altitude—plus the airplane flies faster and single-engine service ceiling increases,” Zagami explains. “If I’m in a hurry, I can usually run 265 to 270 knots, at least 10 knots quicker than before the conversion. Like most things worth having, the mod isn’t inexpensive, but the way I operate the F90, I’ll amortize the additional cost in about three years. After that, I’ll be money ahead with every hour I fly.”

king airZagami’s corporate transport is special in more ways than one. His F90 was used as the certification prototype for Raytheon Aircraft’s unusual electronic, dimmable window shades—a novel, variable light-transmission tint system that allows pilots and passengers to control the darkness of cabin windows by dynamically varying the level of tint. The window system, developed by InspecTech Aero Services Inc. (www.inspectech.net) of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., employs a suspended particle device (SPD) light-control film that electronically controls the tint of all Plexiglas in selected Beech King Airs.

As the owner of the certification airplane, Zagami received a special deal on the modification, but normal price for the electronic window-tint system is about $35,000. Then, of course, as with any Beech product, Zagami has high praise for the airplane’s handling. I couldn’t help agreeing. I flew the airplane for perhaps an hour in conjunction with the air-to-air photos you see in this story, snuggled up to within 30 feet of a Piper Turbo Saratoga SP, and the big King Air was a joy to hold in position. We weren’t anywhere near the F90’s 10,900-pound gross weight on the day of my flights, but at any weight, the airplane handles slow-speed maneuvering very well.

The construction-equipment executive says he had placed a deposit on a VLJ, but recently canceled it. “My F90 has such excellent payload and range that there’s really no comparison,” Zagami explains. “I can go places I couldn’t consider in a little jet, and of course, I couldn’t realistically carry as many people as seats in a VLJ on any reasonable stage length. As far as I’m concerned, the F90 is about as good as it gets for an owner-flown corporate airplane.”

 





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