The engines are mounted further outboard on the 350 than on other King Airs, and the propellers are further forward, moving their tip noise away from the cabin. The leading edge of the wing root between the nacelles and fuselage is extended forward and drooped to give the 350 more lift and good stall behavior. The huge wing has a span of just under 58 feet, and its structure is certified for infinite life, a demanding standard in the commuter category. The winglets appear to help in all phases of flight, but probably add the most at high-altitude climb and cruise. The 350 is certified to 35,000 feet and will get there at most weights and air temperatures, and that is the level where it delivers the lowest fuel burn and longest range, but cabin altitude is around 10,000 feet, so most pilots fly lower unless a very long trip or a strong tailwind lures them to the certified ceiling.
With nearly full fuel and two of us onboard, we weighed 12,600 pounds for takeoff at Beech Field in Wichita. The V1 decision speed was 97 knots, with rotation at 104 knots, and V2 engine-out climb speed at 111 knots. Those speeds are for a flaps-up takeoff. As in most airplanes, using flaps reduces takeoff speeds a few knots and shortens runway roll in the 350, but also reduces engine-out climb performance, so it's a trade-off. With plenty of runway and climb reserve, I like the flaps-up takeoff better. I think it makes for a smoother rotation and initial climb, but the choice is up to each pilot.
Initial climb rate topped 2,000 fpm, and in 15 minutes the 350 was level at 27,000 feet, despite air temperatures at least 9º F above standard all the way up. The high 20s are good altitudes for the 350 because it cruises right around 300 knots true airspeed with a fuel flow of about 650 pounds per hour. The mid-to-high 20s are not crowded altitudes, and the tanks' full range at maximum power is at least 1,000 nm with enough reserves to continue to an alternate 100 nm from the destination.
Except for takeoff, all climb and cruise is conducted with the propellers set at a slow 1500 rpm. At that setting you are aware of the props in the cockpit, but in the aft club chairs the sound could be as easily coming from a jet engine as a turboprop. And the vibration level compares very favorably with a business jet.
For several years Beech had included an active noise attenuating system to quiet the cabin. As in headsets with active noise reduction, a network of microphones detects ambient noise, and then speakers deliver an opposing sound that is 180 degrees out of phase with the unwanted noise. The clash of the two sound waves cancels most of the noise. The active system works well, but proved to be a maintenance issue. There were some failures of the electronic equipment, but more often an adjustment of microphone position or other tweaking was required to make the system work properly. So, Beech has now replaced the active electronic system with a passive noise reduction system that uses 83 "tuning fork" sound absorbers and insulation sealed in plastic bags. The tuning forks are bolted firmly to the airframe structure, and their vibrations, tuned to the propeller frequency, absorb sound energy and help stop it from being transmitted via the metal airframe. There is zero maintenance to the system, and no electrical power is required, but it does add 30 pounds to the empty weight compared to the electronic system. The flying qualities of the 350 are as predictable and dependable as the rest of the airplane. The wind was gusting to 30 knots when I flew the airplane last December, and as you can imagine, it was bumpy down low. The control forces on the 350 are heavy, but the harmony of forces between ailerons, elevator and rudder is excellent. But most importantly, there is lots of power in those control surfaces. It takes muscle to move the controls, but the 350 responds with precision and smoothness, and despite the gusts, my landings were darn good.
Many people wonder how long the King Airs can go on given the host of business jets on the market and in development, but I don't doubt their future because other airplanes can't do what the 350 does in terms of payload, speed, range and runway requirements. Given the continual improvements Beech makes to the airplane, and the welcome return of the company's famous top level of quality, a lot more than 500 King Air 350s will be loading up and taking off in the years to come.