For 40 years, the Beechcraft King Air has enjoyed tremendous success. Each generation of King Air owners have had several memorable moments in the aircraft. Here are just a few:
Round the World – Monday, April 12, 2004
Bill & Priscilla Chester
In 1975-76 my wife Priscilla and I, Bill Chester, had a wonderful experience flying an early straight King Air 90 around the world. I was Vice President of The Heil Co. in Milwaukee in charge of the International Division, and this was both a business trip and a personal experience. During the trip I celebrated my 51st birthday and Priscilla her 50th and our 27th wedding anniversary.
I had a Commercial, airplane single and multi engine land, single engine sea, and instrument rating. Since we would be making several over water flights with waivers for take off weights about 30% over normal gross weight, Priscilla had to be a legal crew member, not just a passenger. She had a Private, airplane single engine land and sea rating, and before the trip she worked hard to get her multi-engine rating. My previous multi engine experience had been in light Piper twins. I went to Beech to take their one week ground school for King Airs and several hours of flight training in the plane. I also went to JFK ( or was it Idlewild then?) for a week’s training course run by TWA for corporate pilots flying the Atlantic for the first time. The final day of this course was emergency procedures, and my wife and I had to jump in a swimming pool, inflate a life raft and learn how to climb into it! Luckily we never had to do that for real!
We had two engine failures on the trip. The first was over the mountains when flying from Teheran to Turkey. The left engine began to surge and overspeed, so I shut it down and made an unscheduled stop at Ankara, where we found to our dismay there was no maintenance service. I knew that the US ambassador to Turkey was the brother of a classmate, so we contacted him (Ankara being the capital of Turkey) and he was most cordial and helpful. He had us to dinner at his home, and explained he had the use of a King Air 200 and was flying in it the next day to meet Kissinger in London. There was a Beech tech rep assigned to his plane who could work on our plane while the ambassador was away. It turned out that it was a faulty bearing in the fuel controller unit, which he removed and I took back to Canada to obtain a replacement and when I returned to Turkey he put it on and I was able to fly the plane back to Switzerland to have the engine have a hot section inspection. The second failure was on the right engine in Hawaii when on starting it a sleeve around the prop shaft seized and ground up metal went all through the engine. The engine had to be removed and shipped to California for a complete overhaul, and then returned and reinstalled on the plane. We had several other problems, a stuck relay so that the starter would not come off the line, a failed pressurization pump which was replaced in the Philippines ( the straight 90 model did not use bleed air for pressurization, instead had a left engine driven pump) and several instrument and avionics problems.
The actual flying of the trip was relatively routine and uneventful. The difficult part of the trip was dealing with the many authorities over flight permits, landing permits, fees, customs and immigration, particularly in the Middle East and Far East. In this area we wore home made pilot uniforms which helped us look professional and that we knew what we were doing, even though we didn’t! I was arrested in Nepal for landing in Katmandu without the proper landing permit, was detained by police on a Greek Island for having photographed some of the ancient ruins on another island (which also had military installations), detained for a long time in Saudi Arabia because they couldn’t find their copy of our landing permit (although I had my copy). We had to convince Pan American to smuggle us out onto the ramp without clearing customs in Teheran because our passports and visas were not in order. In Hong Kong we were delayed a long time by the airport authorities, and as we taxied out for take off we were recalled to return because it was now past the time when fees for take off went up to $100! I was so frustrated and angry that I decided I was not fit to fly and we spent another night and took off the next day during the cheap period. Upon departing Hong Kong the departure radar controller was giving us 1 degree heading changes to keep us on course; I have a problem holding headings within 3 degrees! The departure chart showed an area next to the departure route that read “Unidentified airplanes in this area may be shot down without warning” by China! What a joy it was to finally reach Australia where private flying is encouraged and similar to the States.
Jungle flying – Tuesday, March 2, 2004
I really don’t now how to begin and which adventure I should describe. Because you, that have never been to Brazil before, have no idea how big is this country and how many unpaved and short turf runways it has got. It is a normal situation take off from a turf 2700 feet airstrip on the countryside with a King AIR C-90 with the PT6-20 engine and in my case with on my maximum take off weight and climb to flight level 180 or higher and fly 5 hours or so above turbulence and rough air, to then be landing an big airport in an huge city as Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro with enough fuel to fly at least an hour Another great thing in an C-90 is it’s soft landing, almost every landing the passengers not even felt that the aircraft was already rolling onto the runway, they often thanked to me with; hey captain smooth landing , and I replied; yes thank you, but you have to thanks the aircraft too that is safe, easy and good to landing and to fly too!
And there’s also common 4 or 5 take offs mission landing in several turf runways in a cities that when you land de population goes to the airport to see the aircraft that they have never seen before.
I have had many experiences, and in my opinion, my better moment in a King Air was when I went to the Beech factory, I had an old dream that every King Air pilot has, turned in reality as I was invited from a Brazilian Raytheon dealer to ferry a brand new C-90B from factory to Brazil, I have no words to describe how happy and amazed I’ve got, when I arrived in Wichita I felt like if I was the kid that was going to see his father for his first time or another one that waited for a long time and finally was going to Disney world, the time there, was unfortunately quick, but, of course I managed to know the whole place, and I have to say that the people that works there are very kind.
And lucky, It was a mix for me, I was used to fly the older ones and I could see that they made I great improvement, a lot of technology was incorporated and before, I didn’t realized that was possible get better in what was already better, I become really proud and excited and when I turned on the radios and talked to the Beech ground to get my clearance to my first fuel stop that would be Tampa INTL I thought YES! Let’s see this new machine then I was able to climb directly to FL 290 in the C-90B!!! With full tanks, then I made 3 fuel stops until deliver this nice aircraft in Brazil It was around 20 hours flying, playing with the TCAS in a busy U.S airspace, taking advantage of EGPWS as I was Landing in Dominican Republic at night and relaxing when I watched the reliable P6-21 running smoothly as I was overflying the huge Amazon Jungle with no runways around, and when I landed on my final destination my first thought was: when would be my next trip to Wichita? Well, I wish it happens soon!
2300 hrs and 5 years flying King Airs
The King of Rock – Tuesday, March 2, 2004
Noel Duerksen, Ph.D.
As a child, I always liked airplanes. I asked for and received a subscription to Flying magazine for my birthday as a grade school student. When I was in junior high, Beech started running ads on the inside of the front cover showing the cockpit of a King Air. That picture impressed me so much that I cut it out and pasted it on the cover of my school notebook. As the picture wore out, I replaced it with another copy of the same King Air picture. This pattern continued through early high school. Years later my dream of flying this fantastic airplane was fulfilled as I became an Engineering Test Pilot for Beech Aircraft.
Interesting King Air characteristics that now retired test pilots showed me 20+ years ago:
- If you shut down both engines, feather the props, and roll the airplane, the props do not rotate with the airplane; they maintain their position relative to the earth.
- If you like listening to music while flying your King Air, you can get your King Air to sing along by changing the prop RPM to match the chord changes in the music. This works best with ’50s style rock and roll chord progressions.
Under the radar – Tuesday, March 2, 2004
Dale “Mad Dog” Messmer
I wanted to relate one small story to illustrate the toughness of the King Air. I’m not necessarily proud of this story because it happened during a misspent youth of smuggling drugs. However, it is indicative of the King Air’s durability. I had flown down to the Yucatan Peninsula, across the Gulf, to take delivery of a shipment, and was on my return leg. I was holding down low over the water to get under the radar, at about 75-100 feet, flying visual. As I approached the coast about Gulfport, MS. around 0400, I cut off my landing and clearance lights and headed inland. As I crossed over the interstate along the coast, I forgot about the high tension electric lines running from the huge steel towers. I felt a sudden jolt, accompanied by a loud crashing sound, which scared the hell outta me (and served to return me to complete wakefulness), but didn’t seem to otherwise affect the handling of the aircraft. Upon landing, I discovered that the top 3-4 inches of the vertical stabilizer had been sheared off, apparently from getting a little too close to the electric lines. However, the old bus (a 90 model) got me home and didn’t act like she was hurt at all. When the guys at the FBO went to work on it, they told me that there was only about a quarter inch of metal holding my vertical stabilizer flap in place… but she held… and flew!
There are a couple of other stories I could tell, such as how the King Air will fly with multiple bullet holes in the airframe and engine housings. There aren’t enough good words written to describe and confirm the reliability and durability of this excellent aircraft.
PS- I have learned from past mistakes. Today I am a public speaker in junior and senior high schools (www.MAD-DOG.ORG). I travel the country speaking to kids about the dangers of drugs, gang involvement, violence and the harsh realities of life behind bars for any young person who is foolish enough to be sent there because of a bad choice. I spent almost 11 years in prison because of this. My program is called S.T.O.P. (Straight Talk Outreach Program) and has been in more than 1,400 schools in the last nine years.
The mission – Tuesday, March 2, 2004
After 20 years of selling King Airs, I’ve heard it all. From the “King Air is dead,” to “I wish I had my King Air back instead of this jet.” The resounding truth is that no one has been able to replace, duplicate or supersede the incredible flexibility, durability, performance and reliability of the King Air line. Over the past several years, especially as product improvements have improved the King Airs’ viability, I have taken several jets on trade for new King Airs or added a King Air to their jet operation. The reasons have typically boiled down to the following:
- Dispatch reliability – “Have never missed a trip. We just pull it out of the hangar and go.”
- Dispatch ease of operation – “Kick the tires and light the fires. Preflight and post flight requirements much less worrisome and less hassle.”
- The Mission, The Mission, The Mission
- Economy of operation especially as fuel prices have increased.
- Hauling capability of a having “Sport Utility Vehicle.”
- We once wanted to film a few “Spaghetti Westerns” with titles such as;
“A Fist Full of Throttles”
“For Few Throttles More”
“The Good, the Bad and the Reliable”
All featuring the King Air as the star actor.