The Beechcraft King Air family is part of a line of twin-turboprop aircraft produced by the Beech Aircraft Corporation (now Beechcraft Division of Hawker Beechcraft). The King Air line comprises a number of models that have been divided into two families; the Model 90 and 100 series are known as King Airs, while the Model 200 and 300 series were originally marketed as Super King Airs, with “Super” being dropped by Beechcraft in 1996 (although it is still often used to differentiate the 200 and 300 series King Airs from their smaller stablemates).
The King Air was the first aircraft in its class and has been in continuous production since 1964. It has outsold all of its turboprop competitors combined. It now faces competition from jet aircraft such as the Beechcraft Premier I and Cessna Citation Mustang as well as newer single-engine turboprop aircraft, namely the Piper Malibu Meridian and Socata TBM.
Model 90 series
The Model 90 King
Air was conceived as the Model 120 in 1961. In May 1963, Beechcraft began test flights of the proof-of-concept Model 87, a modified Queen Air with Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-6 engines. On 14 July, Beech announced a new type, and a month later began accepting orders for the “King Air”, with deliveries to commence in Autumn 1964. After 10 months of test flying, in 1964 the Model 87 was delivered to the United States Army as the NU-8F. On 24 January, the first definitive prototype, by now designated Model 65-90 and also fitted with PT6A-6 engines, flew for the first time. The first production aircraft was delivered on October 8, and by the end of the month, 152 aircraft had been ordered; by year’s end, seven had been built. John T. Calhoun was a major contributor to the development of the King Air. He was Project Engineer for the King Air through the whole King Air series.
In 1966, after 112 65-90s were completed, production switched to the Model 65-A90 with PT6A-20 engines. As a measure of the type’s popularity, 206 65-A90s were built in less than two years when production switched to the Model B90, the first of these rolling off the production line in 1968. Military versions built during these years included the 65-A90-1, 65-A90-2, 65-A90-3, and 65-A90-4, all being unpressurised models based on the Model 87. These were produced for the US Army which designated them U-21s of various sub-models; many were fitted out for electronic battlefield surveillance. A total of 162 of these were built between 1967 and 1971.
A total of 184 B90 models were produced before the Model C90 was introduced in 1971, with wingspan increased over earlier models by 4 ft 11 in (1.50 m) to 50 ft 3 in (15.32 m), Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) increased by 350 lb (160 kg) to 9,650 lb (4,378 kg), and PT6A-20A engines. The broadly similar Model E90 was introduced the following year, with PT6A-28 engines; the two were produced in parallel. Further refinement of the 90 series resulted in the Model F90 and follow-on Model F90-1. The F-models featured the T-tail of the Model 200 King Air mated to the fuselage and wings of the E90, with PT6A-135 engines of 750 shp (560 kW) driving four-bladed propellers. The F90 prototype flew on 16 January 1978 and 203 production versions followed between 1979 and 1983, when the F90 was superseded by the F90-1. The F90 prototype was re-engined with Garrett AiResearch TPE-331 engines to test the feasibility of a Model G90, but this model was not put into production.