Beechcraft Celebrates 50 Years Of King Airs

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Beechcraft has been through a lot in the last few years, emerging from bankruptcy and now under new ownership, but its long heritage remains intact -- a fact that was celebrated this week, when the company marked the 50th anniversary of the first flight of the King Air Model 90. Several three-ship passes of the company’s current production King Air models flew above Beech Field, in Wichita, Kan., on Monday afternoon, before an audience of employees and guests. Nearly 7,200 King Airs have been delivered around the world, accruing more than 60 million flight hours. "Today’s celebration launches a year-long commemoration of the King Air legacy," said Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture in a news release on Monday.

On Jan. 20, 1964, company pilots flew the first official flight of the conforming prototype of the King Air Model 90, with thousands of spectators on hand, including employees, Wichita residents, and local and state dignitaries. With five aircraft in the test program, the King Air received type certification from the FAA four months later, on May 27. Customer deliveries began in July. Monday’s anniversary flight featured the King Air C90GTx, based on the original Model 90 design, as well as the King Air 250 and the flagship King Air 350i. Compared to the original Model 90, today’s King Air C90GTx cruises 60 knots faster and lifts 1,485 pounds more payload.