Beechcraft provided an update on the company’s fortunes and handed over the keys to the first King Air 350i ordered by membership aircraft access provider Wheels Up on Monday at its static display at Henderson Executive Airport. The Wheels Up order, together with aftermarket support, is worth up to $1.4 billion, according to the parties.
Wheels Up, the U.S.-based aircraft access membership program scheduled to begin service this November, has named Gama Charters of Stratford, Conn., a subsidiary of Farnborough, UK-based Gama Group, as operator of its U.S.-based fleet of Beechcraft King Air 350i turboprops.
One result of the huge deal to sell up to 105 Beechcraft King Air 350i twin-turboprops to the new Wheels Up private charter membership company is that a comprehensive plan was required to support servicing of the airframes and engines. Thus both Hawker Beechcraft Global Customer Support (HBGCS) and Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) signed a long-term service agreement with Wheels Up here in Las Vegas on the eve of the show, covering support of the Wheels Up King Air 350i fleet and their PT6A-60A engines, respectively.
Beechcraft announced here in Las Vegas that it had added the Garmin G5000 flight deck as an option for its Hawker 400XPR upgrade program, in addition to adding a new wireless in-flight telecom option from Aircell, for both low- and high-occupancy aircraft.
Beechcraft said this week that had received official recognition from the U.S. National Aeronautics Association for a record for a “Speed Over a Recognized Course,” set for a transcontinental flight by its special-mission King Air 350ER flying from San Diego, Calif. to Orlando, Fla. last October. The King Air flew the 1,853.97 nautical mile route at an average speed of 331.08 miles per hour.
Beechcraft claimed a communications first for the AT-6, its losing contender for the USAF Light Air Support (LAS) program. Meanwhile, Embraer described progress in producing the winning LAS contender, the A-29 Super Tucano.
Beechcraft is nearing the sale of its Hawker 4000 and Premier I/IA assets, a step agreed to earlier this year as part of the Wichita OEM’s emergence from bankruptcy. The sale includes items such as type certificates, parts and tooling, as well as the composite manufacturing facility in Wichita known as Plant III. A Beechcraft spokeswoman said potential buyers are currently performing due diligence, and CEO Bill Boisture told AIN that he is “confident” the deal will happen by year-end.
Membership-based private aviation start-up Wheels Up unveiled the exterior livery for its planned fleet of Beechcraft King Air 350i turboprops. France’s Happy Design Studio devised the blue-and-white paint scheme for the New York-based company in just 15 days. Wheels Up placed firm orders and options on 105 King Air 350is last month and expects deliveries to begin next month.
Beechcraft appointed Delhi-based Arrow Aircraft Sales and Charters as its sole distributor for India. The aircraft manufacturer, which previously handled the Indian market from Singapore, is also preparing to appoint an India-based executive. The new partnership with Arrow was launched on Monday along with a seven-day regional demonstrator tour to showcase the King Air 250 in Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata and Bhubaneshwar. Some 70 King Airs are already flying in India, and Beechcraft says many of those operators are looking to upgrade their aircraft.
Beechcraft and its aftermarket service and support organization, Hawker Beechcraft Global Customer Support, appointed Air Service Basel in Switzerland as an authorized service center for the company’s King Air series. The designation allows the facility to provide King Air line and base maintenance. The company, which began operations in 1967, is an FBO, as well as an EASA- and FAA-approved maintenance organization and repair station at Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse in Switzerland.