Royal Refinement: A Timeline of the Beechcraft King Air

Nearly 6,000 Beechcraft King Airs of 17 variants have been sold since the product line was introduced in 1964, making this the most successful series of twin turbine-powered business aircraft ever built. The aircraft fly in corporate, commercial and special mission operations in more than 94 countries throughout the world, and the King Air fleet has accumulated more than 40 million operating hours.

The following milestones tell a story about one of the most popular aircraft in the world – one that is continually updated with the most recent technological innovations. Competitors have come and gone, and the King Air keeps flying. Owners and pilots understand that this is a very versatile aircraft that can perform practically any mission required.


Beechcraft King Air first flight
First flight, Jan. 20, 1964

May 15, 1963 – Beech Aircraft Corporation begins test flights of a twin-turboprop test bed aircraft equipped with two Pratt & Whitney PT-6 turbojet engines rated at 650 shaft horsepower each.

Aug. 14, 1963 – Beech announces the availability for firm delivery in the fall of 1964 of the new, pressurized twin-turboprop Model 90 Beechcraft King Air – a six- to eight-place business airplane with 270 mph cruising speed, over-the-weather operating capability, and slow-speed landing permitting safe use of small fields and airstrips. Within 90 days, the company takes orders totaling $10.8 million for the aircraft.

Jan. 20, 1964 – The Model 90 King Air takes its maiden flight. Firm orders and cash deposits total more than $12 million.

May 27, 1964 – Coronation Day. The Beechcraft King Air Model 90 receives its Type Certificate from the FAA.

June 8, 1964 – Beech sets the initial price at $320,000 for a fully equipped King Air.

July 7, 1964 – First corporate delivery to United Aircraft of Canada, Ltd.

Sept. 4, 1964 – A Beechcraft King Air 90 begins an overseas sales tour, traveling from Gander, Newfoundland, to Paris in nine hours and 50 minutes, at an average ground speed of 264 mph. The aircraft visits 38 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, making 454 landings in 91 cities and conducting 771 business, military and government demonstrations.

Sept. 9, 1964 – The first production aircraft – the sixth King Air built – rolls off the assembly line.

April 1965 – An engineering modification allows the licensed weight of the King Air to increase by 300 pounds of useful load.

January 1966 – Beech delivers the 100th King Air. The King Air A90 goes into production featuring increased cabin pressurization and 50 more horsepower per engine.

December 1966 – Beech ends the year with $24 million in King Air sales and 216 total King Airs delivered.

1966 – Beech is awarded a $9.8 million contract from the U.S. Army for 48 U-21 aircraft – military versions of the King Air — for pilot training. The order marks the first of more than a thousand King Airs built for U.S. military forces and governments around the world

September 1968 – Beech delivers 400th King Air.

Beechcraft King Air 100 cockpit
King Air 100 cockpit

December 1968 – The Beechcraft King Air ends the year as the top selling corporate turbine aircraft four years in a row, accounting for nearly 77 percent of all deliveries in its class.

May 23, 1969 – Beech introduces the King Air 100, to be produced in conjunction with the Model 90. With a gross weight of 10,600 pounds, its payload would amount to more than two tons. Featuring twin Pratt & Whitney PA-6A-28 reverse-flow, free-spool turbine engines rated 680 horsepower each, the 100 cruises at 287 mph and offers overall performance greater than the Model 90. Advance orders of $25 million are taken. FAA certification is achieved in July. First delivery is Sept. 5.


April 20, 1970 – The U.S. Army awards a $12.3 million contract for additional RU-21E aircraft.

Aug. 12, 1970 – The 500th King Air is delivered to Beechcraft dealer Dan Meisinger, president of Topeka (Kan.) Aircraft Sales and Service.

Sept. 23, 1970 – A King Air 100 is the 30,000th Beechcraft airplane to be delivered since 1932. Total value of those sales – more than $2.5 billion.

Beechcraft King Air C90
King Air C90

Sept. 29, 1970 – First flight of the Model C90. With a wingspan of 50 feet, three inches, the PT6A-20A turboprop engines developing 550 shp for takeoff. Empty weight was 5,680 lbs. with a gross weight of 9,650 lbs. Seating six comfortably in its pressurized cabin, the C90 cost $399,500 including complete anti-ice/deice equipment and avionics. Maximum cruising speed was 253 mph, initial rate of climb 2,000 fpm and the C90 could reach a service ceiling of 25,600 feet.

1971- The Model A100 King Air replaces the Model 100. Basically an advanced version, the A100 features a 900-lb. increase in maximum takeoff gross weight to 11,500 lbs., carried an additional 96 gallons of fuel that stretched range to 1,542 statute miles at an altitude of 21,000 feet. Four-blade propellers with shorter span improved ground clearance during taxi and landing operations. The A100 cruised at 271 mph at 21,000 feet and could climb to a service ceiling of 24,850 feet.

1971 – The U.S. Army purchases five Model A100 King Airs to serve as pressurized transports designated U-21F.

Jan. 18, 1972 – first flight of the Model E90. Mounting PT6A-28 turboprop engines of 680 shp flat-rated to 550 shp, the Model E90 was very similar to the Model C90. Pressurization remained the same as C90 at 4.6 psid but performance increased with a cruise speed at 16,000 feet of 285 mph and a service ceiling of 27,620 feet. At maximum range power setting, the E90 could fly 1,870 statute miles.

Beechcraft King Air Model 200
The Model 200 serves as the platform for many of the world’s special mission aircraft

Oct. 27, 1972 – First flight of the Model 200 Super King Air. After four years of research and development, Beech introduces the first T-tail King Air, which would go on to become the best-selling King Air of all time. Wind tunnel testing of the tail itself consumed 375 hours. The distinctive T-tail raised the tail out of the wing’s downwash, allowing the stabilizer and elevator to operate in relatively smooth, undisturbed air. The Super King Air was powered by to P&W PT6A-41 turboprop engines rated at 850 shp each, and could deliver that power up to 106 degrees F. The aircraft carried 544 gallons of fuel in wing/nacelle tanks and two auxiliary tanks located in the wing center section that was two feet wider than the A100’s. Wingspan increased to 54 feet, six inches, length 43 feet, nine inches. With extra power and wingspan, the Model 200’s maximum takeoff gross weight was 12,500 lbs., useful load 5,275 lbs., and maximum speed was 333 mph. Model 200’s cabin seated up to eight in typical King Air surroundings. Air conditioning was standard along with complete wing/tail/propeller deice and windshield antiice equipment. The Model 200 demonstrator, N200KA, carried the name “Free Enterprise.”

1974 – The first Model 200s to enter military service is designated Model C-12A, and ordered by the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force.

March 20, 1975 – First flight of the B100 King Air. Beech engaged a secondsource supplier of engines for the successful Model A100 King Air with new Garrett AiResearch TPE-331-6-251B/252 fixed-shaft turboprop powerplants. Producing 840 shp flat-rated to 715 shp, the TPE-331 gave the B100 a maximum cruising speed of 306 mph, with a cabin altitude of 8,000 feet at 21,200 feet. Range was 1,501 statute miles.

1976 – Beech modifies a Model 200 Super King Air for special mission use. The 200T comes equipped with 50-gallon wing tip tanks for increased endurance and range. Designed for maritime patrol, the aircraft features special large, bulged observation windows in the aft cabin section, surveillance radar housed under the fuselage and a lower fuselage fairing accommodating various photographic equipment for reconnaissance purposes. Electronic control and monitoring consoles are installed in the cabin.

Beechcraft King Air Model F90
F90 King Air

Jan. 16, 1978 – First flight of the Model F90 King Air, conceived as an advanced version using a Model E90 fuselage and wings combined with the Model 200 Super King Air’s swept T-tail empennage. Intended as a step-up King Air from the E90, the F90 was equipped with two 750 shp PT6A-135 turboprop engines, seated seven to 10 occupants (including crew) and cruised at 307 mph. To reduce noise level, the four-blade, constant-speed, full-feathering, reversible propellers turned at a maximum 1900 rpm or 1500 rpm for cruise operation. Initial rate of climb was 2,380 fpm, with a maximum altitude capability of 31,000 feet. The Model F90 has the distinction of being the first King Air equipped with Beech’s advanced, multi-bus electrical system that featured automatic load shedding, five separate buses and solid-state current sensors for ground fault protection and bus isolation.

1976 – The U.S. Navy awards a contract to Beech for what is eventually 61 Model H90 King Airs for advanced, multi-engine pilot trainers designated T-44A.

1979 – The U.S. Navy purchases nine Model A200C designated UC-12B for use as personnel and utility transports for both the Navy and Marine Corps. Basically off-the-shelf airplanes, all were equipped with the 52-inch by 52-inch upwardopening cargo door of the commercial model 200C. Twenty-seven additional airplanes were ordered in 1980, another 22 in 1981, and eight in 1982.


1981 – The improved C90-1 enters production. Equipped with PT6A-21 engines rated at 550 shp for takeoff and 538 shp for cruise climb and cruise segments of flight, the C90-1 carried 384 gallons of useable fuel and featured a maximum takeoff weight of 9,650 pounds. Pressurization was increased to 5.0 psid providing a cabin altitude of 6,000 feet at 20,000 feet and 12,000 feet cabin altitude at 30,000 feet. Up to 350 lbs. of baggage or remote avionics equipment could be placed in the nose compartment with another 350 lbs. of baggage in the aft cabin section, depending on exact arrangement of cabin seats and options installed. Maximum cruising speed was 273 mph with a range of 1,497 statute miles.

1981 – Beech introduces the Model B200. Equipped with PT6A-42 engines that retained a rating of 850 shp but incorporated improved hot section components that enabled better climb and high altitude performance, cruise speed increased to 312 mph, pressurization differential increased to 6.5 psid and zero fuel weights was 11,000 lbs. A double-wide cockpit pedestal made flight deck entry-egress easier and many minor improvements were made to the interior.

Dec. 7, 1982 – First flight of the Model F90-1 King Air, which features pitot-type engine cowl design that improves air intake characteristics, particularly at high altitude. P&W PT6A-135A turboprop powerplants replaced -135 engines of the F90m but were still rated at 750 shp. Wingspan: 45 feet, 10