The two new Beechcraft King Airs – the 360 and the 260 – are set to gain certification from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) before the end of June 2021, according to the manufacturer’s Tom Perry. The King Air 260 gained its US certification in March 2021, while the 360 was certified last October.
“We are in advanced discussions with EASA about the certification of both models and expect to receive the certifications in the balance of this quarter,” Perry, who is Textron Aviation’s vice president, Sales, Europe, told Corporate Jet Investor. He is speaking to me in The Business Centre at Farnborough Airport, 40 miles south west of London. Sitting outside on the apron (ramp) enjoying the blustery, intermittent spring sunshine is the first King Air 360.
“The aircraft outside is the prototype and has arrived from Wichita as part of a worldwide demonstration tour,” says Perry. “We expect to take it as far east as Kazakhstan, probably exiting through Turkey and across the Middle East to Africa, where there is a lot of interest for this model.”
So, what distinguishes the King Air 360 from its older brother the King Air 350? Key differences include: the new Innovative Solutions and Support (IS&S) ThrustSense Autothrottle, an upgraded interior and a new digital pressurisation system.
The autothrottle is designed to support pilots by automatically managing engine power from the take-off roll through the climb, cruise, descent, go-around and landing phases of flight. The design is said to cut pilot workload and enhance the ability to monitor flight performance in order to prevent over-speed or under-speed, over-temp and over-torque conditions.
Also new in the cockpit is the digital pressurisation controller, which automatically sets cabin pressurisation in the climb and descent, again reducing pilot workload and improving passenger comfort. The pressurisation displays are integrated with the Collins Aerospace Pro Line Fusion flight deck.
The upgraded cabin pressurisation system results in a lower cabin altitude at the aircraft’s certified ceiling of 35,000ft, delivering a more comfortable flight for passengers.
King Air 360 buyers can choose from six interior schemes, featuring craftsman-built cabinetry, partitions and side ledges. Standard amenities on the King Air range include pull-out worktables, power outlets, USB charging stations and a private aft toilet.
Meanwhile, the King Air 260 is also equipped with the IS&S ThrustSense Autothrottle system, and digital cabin pressurisation. Both the King Air 260 and 360 aircraft also feature the Collins Multi-Scan RTA-4112 weather radar.
At present in Europe, the corporate and business sectors of the market are relatively quiet compared with the charter and leisure sectors, says Perry. “But even without that traditional corporate business use, worldwide utilisation rates outside of Europe have climbed back to levels above 2019,” he adds. European customers are said to like the King Air 350 for its extended cabin. It has also proved popular with special missions providers due to its endurance and payload capacity.
The basic price for a King Air 360 is $8.39m for a 2021 delivery. But the overall purchase price in Europe is higher due to the regulatory requirement to fit extra equipment – such as a flight data recorder – to this class of aircraft. The King Air 260, which has a basic price of $7.05m, is not subject to this regulation. But don’t expect an early delivery. “We are sold out of King Air 260s in Europe until the fourth quarter of this year. It’s proving very popular over here,” he says.
Perry believes the King Airs are particularly suited to the European market, which has closer city pairs than in the North American market. Last year, the manufacturer sold more turboprops than jets in Europe. “There was certainly an indication the market was very interested in the quality of King Airs. That is because they are twin engine, have low operating costs and are very practical.”
The Covid-19 pandemic is unlikely to leave a major legacy for business aviation, according to Perry. “I don’t think that the post-Covid landscape is so different from the pre-Covid landscape.” Utilisation rates are returning or exceeding 2019 levels and the leisure market has proved resilient. There are signs too in Europe of a return to more corporate and business flights. “Private aviation is relatively resilient compared to commercial aviation,” he says. It offers a way for High-Net Worth Individuals to protect the health, security and well-being of their families, workforce and customers, he adds.
Returning to the King Air’s pedigree, Perry sums up: “This is the latest iteration of a product that has been with us for a generation. There are 7,600 in service, with about 400 of these in Europe. So, it’s not a novel concept but it’s good that we are continuing to invest in the product to bring it up to date and to equip it with the latest features the market is looking for. And that’s what we are going to continue to do – not just with the King Airs but other products as well.”
Meet the new King Airs – at a glance
King Air 360
King Air 260
Top: Tom Perry, Textron Aviation’s vice president, Sales, Europe, introduces
Corporate Jet Investor to the new King Air 360 at Farnborough Airport, UK.
Above: The King Air 360 cabin can accommodates up to 11 passengers.
Below: The upgraded cockpit features the new IS&S ThrustSense Autothrottle.