Hawker Beechcraft is not commenting on the informed speculation that it is developing or flying a single-engined version of the venerable King Air twin-engined turboprop.
Given its increasing turboprop presence with special mission aircraft (12 of the 15 aircraft the company delivered into the Middle East region last year were special mission) and Pilatus's growing presence as a competitor in the utility segment with its single-engined PC-12, the rumours are not without substance.
Add to that, Hawker Beechcraft in September hired Pilatus's marketing manager Mike Haenggi as its director of product marketing, a job where he will "guide the company's overall product positioning, messaging and tools to market each aircraft in HBC's broad product line-up", the company says.
"There's much speculation on that topic for the last 18 months or more," Shawn Vick, Hawker Beechcraft executive vice-president told Flight Daily News. "The focus on product development starts with the understanding and relative market strength of each platform."
Flightglobal had reported in May that planning for such an aircraft had advanced to the point of picking a new engine, information Vick would not confirm.
Meanwhile, the company's services unit has acquired its first test aircraft and initiated design engineering for the $2.24 million Hawker 400XP/Beechjet 400A upgrade programme, known as the Hawker 400XPR. Along with winglets, the aircraft will include new Williams International FJ44-4A-32 turbofan engines replacing the original Pratt & Whitney engines and an optional Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics option.
As announced in November, new production for the $7.5 million Hawker 400XP has been suspended pending a return of the market. Vick says the company has "some remaining aircraft coming off production" that will be finished before the line goes dormant.
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