OSHKOSH 2009: PICTURES: VIDEO: Hawker Beechcraft unveils new King Air model

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Hawker Beechcraft unveiled today at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh a new entry level model for its King Air turboprop line with improved payload and range.

The C90GTx is scheduled to enter service in early 2010, replacing the C90GTi, which only entered service in late 2007. Hawker Beechcraft executive vice-president Shawn Vick says the C90GTx, featuring composite winglets which result in better fuel efficiency and climb performance, will be able to fly 1,000nm with four passengers, a 200nm improvement over the C90GTi. A 385lb increase in maximum takeoff weight to 10,545lbs also gives the C90GTx nearly double the full-fuel payload of the C90GTi - 750lbs compared to just over 375lbs.

"We'll be happy to take orders starting today," Vick says. "We're taking the entry level King Air even further."

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The new aircraft lists for $3.6 million. Existing King Air C90 and E90 customers will also be able to purchase retrofit kits starting this autumn. Winglet kits will be available for $67,500 and the gross weight upgrade will be available for $19,995. For both kits the price is $74,220.

The C90GTx is the eight new King Air model introduced by Hawker Beechcraft since 2003. The last new King Air model, the top end 350i, was unveiled at the NBAA convention in Orlando last November. Vick says the 350i, featuring a "totally redesigned interior" is on pace to enter service later this year. "It is the most advanced cabin interior in its class - turboprop or jet," he says.

Hawker Beechcraft director of product marketing Ron Gunnarson says the 350i is now "knee deep in certification work". He says certifying the new cabin is "quite intensive" and if enough of the certification work is completed by mid October the aircraft will debut at NBAA 2009.

Gunnarson reveals that several more new King Air models are now in the pipeline. He explains Hawker Beechcraft is in "the middle" of a product development roadmap the manufacturer first drew up for the King Air in 2001 and 2002 after a series of meetings with customer focus groups. "We have a lot more [models] on the drawing board," he says. "It will go into the next decade".

Gunnarson says eight new models introduced over the last five years have helped increase interest in the King Air with 172 aircraft delivered in 2008 compared to 88 in 2003. "We've doubled deliveries by pure market pull," Gunnarson says. "The demand has been incredible."

Vick, who only joined Hawker Beechcraft three weeks ago after stepping down as chief executive of Landmark Aviation, says demand for Hawker Beechcraft's entire product line of turboprops and light to mid size jets remains "dynamic" despite the economic downturn. "I'm pleasantly surprised by the amount of activity," he says, but declining to disclose how many aircraft Hawker Beechcraft expects to deliver this year. "I see very good interest across the product line."