The Beechcraft King Air series is the most popular turboprop airplane of all time, according to the National Air & Space Museum. And really, it was way ahead of its time. The first King Airs graced the mid western skies in 1963 and has lived up to its name as the King ever since. Recall the King Air was designed at a time when pistons reigned supreme. In fact, the original 90-series King Air was a derivative of their sleek and graceful Queen Air. The crazy thing for us aviation nerds is that the Queen Air was derived from the Twin Bonanza. So, the King Air shares a direct bloodline with the beloved V-tail itself!
Let’s take a look at this fine aircraft and many (though not all) of the branches on the C-12 tree!
Huron History: A Beechcraft King Air Primer
Since the C-12 is (or at least began) as an off-the-shelf Super King Air, it’s best to start with the history of the King Air.
Back to the Queen Air. While it is a beautiful aircraft with sleek lines, it would always be hampered by piston engines. Powered by a pair of 480-cubic-inch Lycoming’s, the Queen Air produced about 720 horsepower combined. The thing about pistons is that you will tack on additional mass with any increase in output. Mass=weight.
Turbine engines are the answer. Even the first-generation King Air, using the PT-6A, increased output by 210 horsepower per side! And the best part? The PT-6A only weighs 327 lbs.! In contrast, the Lycoming O-480 of the Queen Air has a 498 lb. dry weight. So, it weighs 171 lbs. more than the PT-6A but produces 210 less horsepower.
The other key advantage of turbine engines is their incredible reliability and time between overhauls (TBO). The PT6A is in a 3,500 TBO engine, which is about 1,500 hours longer than most pistons. Turbines also have about ~90% fewer moving parts, making for a smooth and reliable power source. And that takes us to the world’s most popular turboprop.
“The World’s Most Popular Turboprop”
All in all, over 3,100 King Airs have been manufactured since the first 90-series rolled off the factory floor in 1964. Since then, there have been modifications and models too numerous to mention. But not only is the King the most popular turboprop, but it’s also the OG. A big part of staying on top is starting on top and never letting off the gas.
The biggest change in advancement in the King Air line was the transition from a low-tail to a T-tail, accompanied by higher output engines (PT6A-41 at 850 shp, up 300 hp from the first iteration of King Airs) and more fuel to feed the thirsty engines. Since it could fly higher with the increased output, the cabin was also pressurized for higher altitudes.
Military Lineage and Adoption
Interestingly enough, the first three prototypes of the Super King Air series were delivered to the U.S. Army in 1972.
The Army took an early interest in the King Air, which is no surprise; they were still operating the same piston-powered aircraft as the civilians. The Army was the most prolific user of the King Airs, although oddly enough, they picked up unpressurized Model 87s, giving them the designation of U-21 Ute. The Army purchased about 140 Utes total, using them for various utility chores. The Navy also picked up a bunch ofH-90s, naming them the T-44A Pegasus, which are still used extensively at NAS Corpus Christi for advanced training.
Beechcraft Super King Air200-Based Models
Released in the 1970s, the Super King Airs are much more capable machines than the 90- and 100-series aircraft. That’s not a dig on the early models; hundreds of them are in service worldwide today. But they lack the range, capacity, and payload of the Supers.
The 200-series is the original Super King Air series and has had a heck of a good run. In fact, the 200-series remains in production to this day. The 200 ended up being almost four feet longer than the A100,which was the production King Air model at the time. Overall shaft horsepower output was increased from 680 shp to 850 shp. Now think about that: pilots had 980 additional horsepower to work with for an airplane that was a little larger than the Queen Air. Total gamechanger.
These initial C-12s were and continue to be the backbone of the fixed-wing Army fleet. The majority of the C-12 fleet is a200 and will be for a long time from now. Pilots in the training pipeline now will probably retire, still flying C-12s. The original C-12A was based on theA200, using the 750shp PT6A-38. The original order was sixty aircraft, and the fleet was upgraded to the C-12C, or “Charlie,” designation as technology advanced. All this meant was that the engines were upgraded to PT6A-41s, which added 100 shp to each side.
The Delta model is still a common sight in Army aviation circles. While it shares the same power plant as the Charlie, the Delta was equipped with a large cargo door for full-size pallets. Since it was pulling double-duty, the crew and passenger entry door is actually inside of the cargo door.
C-12Fs (Foxtrots) marked a major technological leap for the Huron brand. These were the first C-12s produced with four-blade props. The Romeo, Tango, and Uniform models are all derivatives of the Foxtrot, using the PT6A-42. The main difference in these models is generally cockpit modernization initiatives.
Beechcraft Super King Air350-Based Models
The Army uses only the Super King Air 350-series cargo version, and that’s the C-12S.
The C-12S provides additional seating for up to 15, with a cabin stretched almost three feet longer than the 300-series and longer wingspan and winglets. The C-12S also is equipped with a cargo door and can be converted for cargo quickly.
The Government Procurement Advantage
It takes a lot of work and a reliable supply chain to keep a fleet of Hurons in the air. Whether it is routine line maintenance, phase/isochronal inspections, or depot-level repairs, you need to know that your parts will be there when you need them. Government Procurement, operated by Greenwood Aerospace, we ensure that your focus is on the work that needs to be done, not wondering where the parts are.
Also, we provide a suite of parts kitting and fulfillment services to simplify your operation. We can assemble multiple products from multiple vendors into a comprehensive maintenance kit tailored to your exact airframe and specific tasks. We conform to AS9120B standards to ensure you receive the quality parts and services you need to get your fleet out of the hangar and into the air.