With the near halving of the smaller end of the business aircraft market, Hawker Beechcraft, hit harder than most, is quietly preparing to enter the single engine turboprop market with a new offering.

Industry sources confirm that the aircraft, which is in advanced planning, will enter Hawker Beechcraft into the utility aircraft market and will take on the Pilatus PC-12, Cessna Caravan, Daher Socata TBM 850 and Piper Meridian.

The aircraft establishes the company's King Air 200 as a baseline for the aircraft's footprint, as Hawker Beechcraft develops its clean-sheet design.

Hawker Beechcraft declines to comment, although executive vice-president of sales, marketing and flight operations Shawn Vick says: "I would describe that end of the market as robust. We're going to pay close attention to any and all competitors in the marketplace."

As the industry continues its slow recovery from a devastating drop in 2008 and 2009, it is now able to look back on the impact of the ruinous year.

Richard Aboulafia, vice-president of analysis for the Teal Group, found that the market for aircraft worth $25 million dropped by only 4% in 2009, while aircraft less than $25 million took a 43% dive during the same period.

That contrast illustrates the market decimation for super-midsize aircraft and below, forcing deep production cuts and driving down used aircraft values.

"A big beneficiary is the turboprop," says Aboulafia, who says that as the small jet aircraft market inches back to health, putting a damper on light and very light jet products, buyers are refocusing on lower ownership and operating costs of propeller driven aircraft.

The programme, which is in its engine selection phase, is believed to pit an offering from Pratt & Whitney Canada against GE Aviation, formerly Walter Engines.

P&WC used EBACE to announce that it intended to "reinvent" its venerable PT6 engine, which is believed to be the front runner to power the new aircraft.

Enhancements to the PT6 centre around the electronic controls of the engine, including more robust integration with the aircraft avionics to monitor the health of the power plant, as well as improving the fuel burn.

Maria Della Posta, senior vice-president of sales and marketing, says the company is already seeing new applications for the enhanced engine on an emerging group of existing and clean-sheet turboprop aircraft.

Mike Perodeau, vice-president corporate aviation and military engines, says the turboprop market is very price sensitive, and any new technology must balance business and technology considerations.

"You've got to find a way to balance adding technologies while keeping the cost under control," says Perodeau.

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Source: Flight International