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Beech Lands Huge King Air Deal

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Beechcraft has secured what it says is the largest-ever order for prop-driven aircraft with a $1.4 billion deal to sell 105 King Air 350i twins to start-up "membership-based" aircraft service Wheels Up. The new company, being started by Marquis Jet founder Kenny Dichter, will offer access to aircraft without fixed costs and will get going in the Northeast with nine aircraft that will be delivered by the end of the year. Another 35 will be delivered through 2015 and Wheels Up has the option to order 70 more King Airs. Dichter said the King Airs will offer existing private aircraft users more flexibility in their travel options and it also offers those who don't currently use private aircraft a new entry point.

Although the King Air service will be less expensive than many that use light jets, there will be no shortage of luxury aboard the Wheels Up aircraft. The state-of-the-art interiors will include Wi-Fi and a deluxe lav. Wheels Up also incorporates Wheels Down, a ground service company that allows members to get tickets to special sporting and cultural events as part of their package. Wheels Up is also buying a full maintenance package from Beech worth about $600 million of the $1.4 billion deal. Wheels Up will be based in Wilmington, Del.

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