This Is a New King Air
Understandably, HBC is exercising caution in its discussions of future products. At the same time, it hopes to stir up excitement and optimism by throwing out a few morsels, including a short set of proposed specs for the King Air single.
It also showed a chart of its tentative new lineup that had a grayed-out spot in it for a new King Air, though it shared no other details. The problem with a new King Air is finding a niche for it between the entry-level C90GTx, with a maximum weight of about 10,500 pounds, and the King Air 350i, which has a max ramp weight of better than 15,000 pounds. The thoroughly modernized King Air 250, the latest version of the B200 model (one of the most popular cabin class airplanes ever) sits midway between the 350i and the C90GTx.
Even if there were no new niches within the lineup, a modernization program might make sense. All models currently come equipped with the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 flight deck. That company’s new Fusion line is, of course, the current state-of-the-art. Garmin would surely like to get in on the conversation, as its G3000 and G5000 suites are moving upscale and might prove a good fit. It already has suites in the Baron and Bonanza. New King Airs might also feature upgraded engines, though all three models already boast late-generation Pratt & Whitney engines.
Another possibility, now that HBC raised the subject, is a composite fuselage King Air twin. Such a structure would bestow upon the airplane all the same benefits — better top speeds, pressurization, cabin room and payloads — it would bring (in theory) to the concept single. The development program for such an airplane would surely be expensive, though.
In the end, the new Beechcraft will come about in one form or another, though the pain for owners, employees, vendors and partners has been great and will continue to be so for some time. It’s possible, indeed probable, that new developments in the story will emerge after we’ve sent this story off to the printer, though it does seem likely we’ve seen the last of Beechcraft as a manufacturer of business jets, at least for many years to come.
What we are almost certain to see is a leaner Beechcraft, one focused on a range of aircraft that, one might argue, was its strength all these years — airplanes with propellers that work hard, carry a good load, are fun to fly and make money for their operators.
If all goes as planned, a Beechcraft like that might just fly.