Beechcraft is ramping up pre-launch development of a new product internally named the “PD434”, as the manufacturer hones its market strategy in on the increasingly competitive space for turboprop-driven aircraft in a price range of $2-4 million.
A Beechcraft job posting released on 3 September suggests the team behind the PD434 programme is already looking ahead to the airworthiness certification process.
The position, which is assigned to the King Air department, seeks to recruit a project engineer to “lead the certification efforts on PD434”, among other duties.
Although the advertisement has been posted on the company’s website for nearly a month, Beechcraft officials declined to acknowledge the existence of the PD434.
“I am not aware of that,” says Ron Gunnarson, Beechcraft’s senior director of marketing communications and tactical marketing. “By tomorrow, that job notice won’t have ‘434’ on it.”
The existence of the PD434 – a designation prefix Beechcraft usually reserves for “preliminary designs” – comes as the company continues to pursue a single-engined turboprop.
Beechcraft’s single-engined turboprop concept has a Premier 1 fuselage with a single, nose-mounted turboprop engine
Beechcraft revealed the single-engined turboprop concept at NBAA last year, showing a drawing of what appeared to be a Premier 1 fuselage with a single, nose-mounted turboprop engine replacing aft-mounted turbofan engines.
The concept’s specifications were shown in comparison to an undisclosed competing aircraft, although the cabin dimensions match those of the Pilatus PC-12NG.
Gunnarson does not dispute the Beechcraft concept’s similarity with the Premier 1 fuselage, but notes it would still be considered a clean-sheet design within the company.
“Even if that is exactly the Premier-sized fuselage, in our book that would be a clean-sheet design,” Gunnarson says. “Because it’s a new application of a [fuselage], it will be a differently designed wing and that’s about as close to clean-sheet as you can get.”
In addition to the single-engined concept, Beechcraft also revealed two new “King Air”-branded turboprops to fill the size gap between the King Air 90 and the Baron G58.
“That single-[engined concept] could be anywhere in there, “ he says, although he added it would be “most likely” to fall in the space between the King Air 90 and 250.
“The whole $2 million to $4 million segment is the most dynamic of any,” Gunnarson says. “It’s safe to bet that in that sphere, Beechcraft – as the leading manufacturer of twin-engined [aircraft] today, bar none – is looking at that space from all different angles.”
Since emerging from bankruptcy protection in February, Beechcraft has shut down the jet production lines and focused on the turboprop and piston-powered aircraft segments. The renewed focus has also come with a new infusion of cash for research and development.
“The market can expect these new entrants into the product line in the next coming years,” Gunnarson says.