Two King Air 260s Delivered To U.S. Forest Service


Textron Aviation announced on Thursday that it has delivered two Beechcraft King Air 260 twin-engine turboprops to the U.S. Forest Service. The Forest Service will use the new 260s primarily for wildfire mapping missions. Modifications to the aircraft include the installation of infrared (IR) sensing technology, the Overwatch Imaging TK-9 Earthwatch Airborne Sensor and legacy U.S. Forest Service sensors.

“Whether for the wildfire detection and mapping, resource management, aerial supervision module/lead plane or air attack, the King Air continues to demonstrate its leadership in this mission,” said Bob Gibbs, Textron Aviation vice president for special mission sales. “Customer faith in our legendary products and trust in our company and our team are at the core of our enduring relationship with U.S Forest Service.”

The latest addition to the King Air 200 series, Textron introduced the King Air 260 in December 2020 and the model received its FAA type certificate in March 2021. The Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-52-powered 260, which offers a top cruise speed of 310 knots, 1720-NM range and useful load of 3760 pounds, added features including the Innovative Solutions & Support (IS&S) ThrustSense autothrottle and Collins Aerospace Multi-Scan RTA-4112 weather radar. According to Textron, more than 7,700 Beechcraft King Air turboprops have been delivered since 1964 with the worldwide fleet accumulating more than 62 million flight hours to date.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. Why isn’t this work contracted out to private companies such as Sovereign Aerospace in Southern Pines, NC or Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, VA? The Private sector always results in lower costs and better quality due to competition. And they don’t miss work for all the bizarre holidays that only government employees get these days.

    • USFS policy is that lead planes and ASM are always USFS employees. Air attack, tanker, and helo can be contractors. I suspect that USFS feels that they can maintain better control with that policy.

  2. Wildfire detection and mapping, resource management, aerial supervision module/lead plane – OK, all that makes sense for USFS, but “air attack”? Is the IRS getting King Airs too?

    • Air attack is contracted out. The exceptions are ASM, alpha, and bravo units. I do question the mapping function as private companies are very good these days. See firetrack.

  3. I flew equipment around for the Forest Service early in my career (circa 1960-61). Aviation was very tightly controlled in the organization, and with good reason. Think CFIT.

  4. I still remember the Forest Service King Air that was stolen from KPDK a couple decades ago. Someone wanted it to smuggle drugs with…