Less than six months after emerging from bankruptcy, Beechcraft has made history by securing the largest general aviation propeller aircraft order, for up to 105 King Air 350is.

The deal, awarded by start-up US operator Wheels Up, is valued at $1.4 billion and includes a $600 million comprehensive maintenance programme for the twin-engined turborops.

Wheels Up is touted as a private aviation membership programme for North America and western Europe.

The company was founded by trailblazer Kenny Dichter, who established the first 25h pre-paid charter card company, Marquis Jet.

Wheels Up is scheduled to take delivery of 35 customised 350is between now and mid-2015 "with the first nine deliveries to be made in 2013", says Beechcraft. The programme will initially focus on the northeast US, but will be expended "over the next two to three years", Beechcraft adds.

Source: Flight International