Beechcraft King Air 350i: Buyer’s and Investor’s Guide
The King Air 350i is a nine-seater twin-engine turboprop made by Beechcraft.
You can’t really go wrong with the King Air 350i. It has a large infrastructure, a history and a huge global fleet. Only a very few aircraft can claim to be iconic and the King Air 350i is one of them.
Beechcraft is looking at launching new aircraft, so the King Air 350i may not be the flagship for long. Some people may also feel that the King Air 350i doesn’t quite match the glamour of a private jet.
The first Land Rovers were built in 1948, but while all parts of the car have changed since then, there is still a real link between the first cars and a new Land Rover today. It is exactly the same with Beechcraft’s King Air 350i.
The King Air has evolved since the first aircraft were delivered in 1964. But almost 50 years on, the latest King Air 350i has exactly the same qualities of ruggedness, value for money, low operating costs, durability and, plain-old common-sense that defined the original aircraft.
Many manufacturers have tried to beat the King Air, but so far no one has completely succeeded.
Although propeller aircraft are typically more economical they do not fly as fast or as high as jets (the height allows jets to fly over bad weather). However, this is not an issue on most of the routes that the aircraft is used on.
With a maximum speed of 578 kmph a King Air may be 20 minutes slower than a jet on a two hour flight but it can also land at thousands of airports where a jet cannot. The aircraft’s operating costs are significantly cheaper than light jets.
The King Air 350i is capable of flying 1,500 nautical miles with seven passengers. But this would mean sitting in the aircraft for over five and half hours. In reality most trips will be shorter – although this range and the fact that it is fuel efficient means it can do several stops without refuelling.
One major upgrade in the King Air 350i is the avionics which means pilots have a modern, easy to use, state of the art cockpit.
With a cabin height of 4.8 feet/1.5 metres you need to duck to walk to your seat but once you are in it the King Air 350i is as spacious as its light jet competitors (you don’t get a big cabin with any light jet).
You can also carry an awful of baggage in both the internal and external luggage holds –fare more than you could in a similar sized jet (where more passengers mean less baggage due to weight restrictions). You can easily fit skies or fishing equipment.
One downside of propeller aircraft is the noise. However, Beechcraft has worked hard to reduce this and whilst the aircraft is not completely quiet you can hear easily hear the inflight entertainment including high definition video.
King Airs are fuel efficient and cheap to operate compared with jets that offer similar missions.
As well as traditional business jet roles, many King Airs have been converted for roles like aerial survey, air ambulance, flight inspection, surveillance and training. It is also an aircraft well know across the world so there is a large group of potential buyers. Residual values reflect this and the aircraft has performed well in recent years.
Large orders – like the one by Wheels Up – can be a concern as they can quickly change the number of pre-owned aircraft available for sale. However, it still accounts for a small proportion of the King Air order book, so it is not yet a concern. If anything, Wheels Up’s choice of the King Air demonstrates the unique attributes of the aircraft and could encourage new owners to consider the King Air 350i as an alternative to a light jet or VLJ.
In the US, finance is readily available for King Airs, but in some international markets is can be harder to find.
Max range: 1765 nm/3265 km
Max speed: 578 kmph
Typical passengers: Up to 11
Typical crew: 1-2
Competitor aircraft: King Air 350i ER (extended range), Pilatus PC-12, Piaggio P180 Avanti, Phenom 100, Cessna Citation Mustang
List price for a new King Air 350i: $7.5 million
First delivery: 2009
Next slots: Short wait
Word fleet: 650+ (King Air 350)