The cockpit houses a fully integrated Collins Pro Line 21 avionics system with three big flat-panel displays, a flight management system (FMS), very capable autopilot with its control panel up high in the glareshield instead of down in the pedestal, and a file server system that contains Jeppesen electronic approach charts, weather data and other information. The Pro Line 21 was in the B200, but traffic and terrain warning systems are now standard. And the airplane is fully compliant with reduced vertical separation minimum (RVSM) requirements so it can fly above 28,000 feet in U.S. airspace.
To see what the new engines do for the B200GT, we filled the main tanks with 2,300 pounds of fuel -- 3,645 pounds is max -- and with two onboard had a takeoff weight of 11,500 pounds, compared to a maximum certified takeoff weight of 12,500 pounds. This B200GT had been newly delivered to a customer and was typically equipped with an empty operating weight of 8,532 pounds. The change to the "GT" model added about 50 pounds to the typical empty weight, leaving a maximum useful load of around 4,059 pounds to be divided between fuel and payload.
Because the maximum takeoff weight on the B200GT is not over 12,500 pounds there are no certification requirements for minimum takeoff performance profile should one engine fail at the worst possible moment. However, all of the information necessary to calculate whether a takeoff and climb can continue safely after an engine failure is in the operating manual and only a fool would ignore it. The airplane has automatic propeller feathering if an engine fails, and there is a rudder boost system that steps on the proper rudder to help keep the airplane flying straight, so pilot workload after a sudden engine failure is minimal. If a pilot considers airport elevation, air temperature, obstacles and takeoff weight, there is no reason the B200GT can't safely complete a takeoff and climb even if the worst happens at the least favorable point, just as jets and larger airplanes are required to do.
Flying the B200GT is no different than any earlier model of the 200 line. You advance the throttles only until the torque -- a measure of horsepower to the propeller -- limits are reached and the airplane flies off with very little back pressure to rotate. But, for some reason that makes no technical sense, the B200GT seems more spirited on takeoff and initial climb. There is the same 850 shp reaching the props, but the airplane has more get up and go. And King Air pilots with tons more time in the airplane than I have agree with this impression. Who knows why, but it is a good thing.
I saw climb rates ranging from 1,500 to 2,000 fpm with an indicated airspeed of 160 knots or so, and that value held through 23,000 feet. Even out of 27,000 feet to our clearance of 28,000 feet the B200GT was going up at more than 1,000 fpm despite outside air temperatures warmer than standard. We couldn't climb above FL 280 because the airplane operator had not yet applied for and received the individual certification necessary to fly in RVSM airspace that begins above that level.
With the propellers set at a low 1700 rpm and engine temperature set at maximum for high speed cruise, the B200GT settled down at a true airspeed of 301 to 305 knots with total fuel burn of 640 to 660 pounds per hour. That was 20 or more knots faster than the previous model and just what the book predicted in terms of performance. We could have held that airspeed at a higher altitude with RVSM approval and cut the fuel flow. Because the new engines burn more fuel to make that extra power, maximum range in the B200GT is about 200 nm less when flown at max cruise. However, if you slow down to the 280 or so knots that is top cruise of the earlier model, range comes out about the same.
The Super King Air is by no means a fingertip airplane to fly, but control forces are reassuringly firm and consistent. The airplane is extremely stable in pitch, so stable in fact that every little change in airspeed requires a slight change in pitch trim to keep control forces neutral. The definition of stability is an airplane that just doesn't want to deviate from its trimmed airspeed, and this one meets that standard. Every time I fly a 200 I at first think I'm doing something wrong because I am always trimming to stay exactly on altitude, but then I engage the autopilot and watch the trim wheel and see that it does the same thing -- only it is better at nailing the target altitude 100 percent of the time than I will ever be.
The B200GT cockpit has new crew seats adopted from the 350, and they are very comfortable and adjustable to suit individual desires. The cockpit is roomier than those of most light business jets with loads of headroom. And the cockpit insulation is superior with no problem of your outboard arm getting cold against the sidewall, and that is an issue in some jets and turboprops.
But it is the cabin much more than the cockpit that has sold more than 2,000 Super King Air 200s, and in the B200GT the cabin is an even better place in its furnishings and sound level. The private potty in the rear with its wood sliding doors and the in-cabin baggage in the rear have always been crucial to passenger comfort. The new seats are a nice improvement, and the "square oval" shape of the cabin maximizes head and shoulder room. The "tuning fork" vibration dampers also help control noise from the propellers. The dampers are tuned to the vibration produced at 1700 rpm and are firmly bolted to the fuselage structure at key points around the cabin. When the noise energy traveling through the metal skin, frames and stringers reaches the damper, much of it is converted soundlessly into vibration by the tuning fork. The dampers require no maintenance, add only a little weight and really do work. The best seats are away from the propellers, but even in the cockpit sound levels are good.
The environmental system also now has the important features of the 350 including automatic temperature control for the cockpit separate from the cabin. The air conditioning system is now more efficient and environmentally friendly, and the B200GT has a 20,500 BTU electric heating system that supplements normal bleed air heat for quick cabin heating on the ground and comfort on long flights on dark, cold nights.