Turboprops new and used are experiencing resurgence as high fuel prices bite into business aviation. Raytheon has increased its King Air delivery forecast for the year, while Piaggio and Pilatus plan to increase production of their turboprops next year.
Raytheon now expects to deliver 116 King Airs this year, an increase of 10 and up from 102 last year, while Pilatus will deliver 80 PC-12s, up from 70 in 2004. Piaggio will deliver 17 Avantis, but plans to produce 24 next year and to keep pace has named two additional completion centres: Jet Aviation in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Jet Works Aviation in Denton, Texas.
Beginning in January, Pilatus PC-12s will be delivered with a higher maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 4,740kg (10,450lb), increasing the turboprop single’s useful load in executive configuration by 240kg. Redesigned winglets reduce drag and improve crosswind control and the addition of Flettner tabs to the ailerons reduces roll control forces by 60-72%, says the Swiss manufacturer. Other changes include new crew seats and LED cabin lighting. Base price increases by $80,000 to $2.79 million.
While Raytheon expects to certificate and deliver the uprated King Air C90GT in December, and has sold almost a year’s deliveries, the upgrade market is active. Everett, Washington-based BLR Aerospace is developing winglets for the King Air 90 family after gaining supplemental type certification (STC) on the B200. Seattle-based Raisbeck has gained approval to raise the MTOW of C90-family King Airs fitted with its performance improvements to 4,865kg, an increase of 115-315kg.
Out-of production turboprops are also receiving attention. M7 Aerospace, which acquired Fairchild in 2002, has launched the M7 Merlin programme to refurbish Merlin IIIBs and Cs, as well as Metros. A Merlin acquired and refurbished by the San Antonio, Texas-based company costs between $900,000 and $1.5 million, depending on age and options, or existing owners can bring their aircraft in for upgrade.
Jim Matheson, the new owner of Twin Commander Aircraft, says high fuel prices are pushing up sales at the Arlington, Washington-based company, which supports the out-of-production Rockwell twins. Sales of refurbished Renaissance Commanders had dried up after 9/11, but “we have good prospects now”, he says. The company has received reduced vertical separation mimima approval for the twin-turboprop models.
GRAHAM WARWICK/WASHINGTON DC
Source: Flight International