The Beech King Air series has its design roots in the earlier Queen Air. Aimed at the business market, the Model 65 Queen Air first flew on August 28, 1958. The 7-9 seat Queen Air was originally powered by 340hp Avco Lycoming IO-480-A1B6 flat-six engines. The aircraft proved popular with civil and military operators (as the U-8). The Model A65 featured swept tail surfaces, increased fuel capacity, and 9-10 seat arrangement. This was followed in 1961 by the Model 80 Queen Air, with uprated 380hp engines. In 1963 a new model, originally designated Model 65-80, was tested with 500shp P&W PT6-A6 turboprops. Redesignated as the Model 65-90T, this unpressurised aircraft was tested by the US Army as the NU-8F.
The turboprop Model was renamed the King Air. The unpressurised military version was designated U-21A (Model 65-A90-1). A pressurised civil version, the Model 90 flew on January 20, 1964 and deliveries began later that year. The uprated Model A90 using PT6A-20 engines appeared in 1966. In August 1969 Beech extended the King Air range with the delivery of the Model 100. This had a 1.27m longer fuselage with (in commuter layout) a 15 seat capacity, shorter wingspan, larger tail control surfaces, and PT6A-28 engines. As the U-21F this was also popular with military operators.
The prototype Model 200 first flew on October 27, 1972. The Model 200 features a T-tail, larger wingspan, increased fuel capacity, and PT6A-41 engines. Deliveries began in 1974, including military service as the C-12A. A number of military and civil variants have followed. The B200 was introduced in 1981 with PT6A-42 engines. The B200T has removable wingtip fuel tanks. The B200C has a cargo door (originally developed for the C-12D). The King Air 300 features 1,050shp PT6A-60A engines.
Several aircraft of the King/Queen Air family have operated in New Zealand. Currently 2 Queen Airs and 1 King air appear on the New Zealand civil register as at September 1, 1999. In addition, in 1998 the RNZAF decided on the King Air B200 as a replacement for the Andover. On March 13 a contract was signed with Pacific Aerospace Corporation and Aeromotive Ltd to supply 3 aircraft for a ten year period, along with onsite maintenance and logistics.
The aircraft were sourced in the United States, with Dennis Thompson (of Dennis Thompson International Ltd) acting as agent to source, prepare, and deliver the King Airs. The biggest problem with the acquisition was finding aircraft of the same specification and layout, as King Airs are built to meet individual customers needs. Matching cockpit layout was important as the aircraft are being used for training. NZ1883 (BB-1087) returned to the US for modifications to standardise the layout. There are some minor differences in the internal fit out, and the aircraft are set up in 8 seat executive configuration. All the aircraft have received 'Raisbeck' modification involving new more efficient Hartzell propellors, changes to the leading edges and strakes, and new undercarriage doors to allow low pressure tires to be fitted.
Note: One of the aircraft investigated for purchase was rejected, and reports indicated that this was due to DEA interest in the aircraft's previous career in Colombia - Dennis Thompson has indicated the problem was actually due to questions over the serial number and model of the aircraft. The final aircraft, ZK-KAC (BB-1008) was subsequently purchased and delivered.
The aircraft are based with 42 Squadron at Whenuapai. The primary role is multi-engine conversion training After initial training on CT/4Es at Ohakea, trainees complete approximately 90 hours with 42 Squadron to qualify, then carry out about 200 hours 'consolidation' which includes operational conversion. In addition the aircraft each operate about 100 hours/year in the VIP transport role, plus filling a communications role.
The RNZAF aircraft are:
Last Update:- 18 November, 1999
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© 1999 Phillip Treweek, all rights reserved