FAA Certifies Beechcraft King Air C90GT

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If the hype surrounding VLJs -- including their pricing, performance, reliability and automation -- is any indication, companies marketing non-VLJ turbine airplanes in the sub-$3-million price range may have to come up with innovative ways to add value and retain customers. Which has a lot to do with Raytheon's latest offering, the Beechcraft King Air C90GT, certified by the FAA in December. Billed as "the latest evolution" of the baby King Air series, the C90GT features enhanced performance resulting from fitting Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-135 engines to the venerable airframe. In fact, the company is not at all bashful about targeting VLJs: Beechcraft President and General Manager Randy Groom said in a statement, “On typical missions, the C90GT will deliver its passengers in a nearly fifty percent larger cabin and within minutes of even the closest competitive very light jet." The King Air C90GT's certification brings to four the number of new types Raytheon certified in 2005.

According to the company, the King Air C90GT features a 26-knot increase in max cruise speed, a 50-percent time-to-climb reduction and shorter takeoff distances at all field elevations when compared to the King Air C90B it replaces. Maximum cruise speed is now 272 knots -- still a bit short of the 300-plus knots advertised by VLJ manufacturers -- while improved climb capability means Raytheon's latest King Air will need 22 minutes to reach its FL300 ceiling. Standard takeoff distance is reduced by 312 feet from the C90B model. Raytheon touted other benefits over VLJs: the "proven and reliable" airframe design, seating for up to seven passengers, a heated and pressurized baggage storage area easily accessed during flight and a fully enclosed lavatory. And then there are other issues confronting those trying to decide between a VLJ or a similarly priced turboprop: fuel efficiency, lower insurance costs and type ratings.