The Beech King Air 350 is for people who want to make their airplane budget in ink, not pencil. Its rugged design, more than 40 years of heritage and robust systems make the 350 one of the most dependable and predictable turbine airplanes around. The entire King Air fleet has logged an estimated 40 million flight hours since the first one was delivered in 1964, and more than 6,000 have been built.
That's why Spartan Chemical bought the 500th 350 built. This is the third 350 that Spartan, a maker of environmentally friendly specialty cleaning chemicals, has owned in sequence, and it uses the airplane to visit more than 500 distributors plus current and prospective customers from its headquarters near Toledo, Ohio.
And - I don't want to jinx the airplane and its crews - the 350 has not been involved in a reported accident in the United States since the first one entered service in 1990. The King Air fleet has posted one of the best safety records of any business airplane, but the 350 stands out as the best. The 350 is the biggest King Air with a cabin nearly three feet longer than the model 200. That provides room for a spacious dual club seating arrangement, plus a large and private lavatory in the rear. With full fuel tanks and a 200-pound pilot, 1,600 pounds of payload remains, so a full-sized person plus baggage can be carried in every seat. And 55.3 cubic feet of baggage can be stored in the aft compartment of the fuselage where it is heated and pressurized and accessible in flight. Long items such as skis or fishing poles fit nicely in the engine nacelle lockers. If you want to haul more people than baggage, two more seats can be put in the aft baggage compartment, and another person can sit on the belted potty seat.
The 350 is a rare airplane that can carry full fuel and full seats, and it can do it under extreme conditions. High air temperature robs all airplanes of takeoff performance, but the 350 has enough margin to safely take off at maximum weight at sea level on a 126º F day. Move up to Denver and it can still take off at maximum weight on a 90º F day. And if for some reason you need to fly a short hop, no problem, because the maximum landing weight is the same as max takeoff, 15,000 pounds. If you guessed the landing gear and airframe structure must be super strong, you'd be right.
The takeoff performance of the 350 is even more impressive when you consider that it is certified in the commuter category of FAR Part 23. That means pilots must have a type rating to fly it and must observe minimum runway requirements that assure a margin of safety if an engine fails during takeoff, just as the rules do in jets.
The required takeoff runway length in the 350 is the distance needed given weight, air temperature, wind and so on to accelerate to decision speed, have an engine fail, and stop on the remaining runway; or the distance needed to lose an engine after reaching decision speed and continue the takeoff to an altitude of 35 feet above the runway; or the distance needed to take off and climb to 35 feet above the runway with both engines running increased by 15 percent. In piston twins or other turboprops that are not certified in the commuter category - which is nearly all - there is no required runway and pilots can legally plan on a "two engine" takeoff with no margin built in.
On a standard day the 350 needs 3,330 feet of runway to take off, or under 5,000 feet at Denver. Even on that 90º F day in Denver the runway requirement is only 8,000 feet, and runways in that part of the country are routinely longer than that. And, remember, those numbers are for full fuel - enough to fly 1,500 nm or more with reserves - and a hefty body in every seat. For a mere 500 nm trip with a cabin full, runway lengths drop well under 3,000 feet on a standard day. It is a very versatile airplane.