40 Years for the King Air

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the prototypical business turboprop, the Beech King Air. The airplane, to our knowledge, is the longest continuously produced civilian turbine aircraft. (The Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules is the only turbine aircraft that has been continuously produced for longer.)

It was in August of 1963 that Beech Aircraft announced its King Air. The airplane was a natural outgrowth of the company's large piston-powered aircraft, but the addition of the Pratt & Whitney PT-6 powerplants immediately changed the nature of corporate travel. With its roomy six-to-eight-seat cabin, the pressurized King Air could cruise at the flight levels at better than 230 knots.

Customers lined up for the new model; Beech got nearly 40 orders for the $320,000 twin between its announcement in August and its first flight four months later, in January of 1964. The airplane earned its FAA type certificate in late May of that year, and Beech delivered seven King Airs before the end of the year and a total of 69 of the airplanes the following year. In all, Beech has delivered more than 6,000 King Air variants, and the fleet has amassed, according to Beech's estimates, roughly 10 billion miles in the air.

To commemorate the anniversary, Beech is transforming a King Air 350 with the N-number N40TH into a showcase with special paint and interior. Also, Beech has created a special King Air commemorative website, replete with pictures, facts and stories. Owners who would like to have their King Air stories or photography included should send e-mail to kingair40@rac.ray.com.

The celebration will culminate at the National Business Aviation Association Convention in Las Vegas with the delivery of the anniversary King Air to its new, as yet unnamed owner.


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