Beechcraft King Air. The workhorse of the American Air Force
Beechcraft King Air 350ER, photo: beechcraft.txtav.com
The Beechcraft King Air is a large family of American general purpose turboprop aircraft that are widely deployed around the world. The plane, which made its first flight in May 1963, is still in demand, including in the armed forces. Beechcraft King Air aircraft have been in military service with the United States Air Force for over 55 years.
Despite its venerable age, the aircraft has been modernized many times and is still recognized as one of the best in its class. Over the years of serial production, about 7 thousand aircraft were produced.
At the same time, all Beechcraft King Air models can be divided into two large groups: King Air (models 90 and 100) and Super King Air (models 200, 300/350). Since 1996, the Super prefix in the name has become a thing of the past, now the most advanced aircraft of the series are simply designated Beechcraft King Air 350, etc.
History of the Beechcraft King Air
Beechcraft began developing a new light multipurpose aircraft in the early 1960s.
The novelty was based on the twin-engine aircraft Beech Queen Air, created earlier by the company's engineers, which was serially produced in various versions until 1967.
Like its predecessor, the new model, designated the Beechcraft King Air Model 90, is a lightweight twin-engine turboprop multi-purpose aircraft. The King Air was a twin-engine low-wing aircraft with retractable landing gear. Initially, the car was created in the interests of the US Army. It was planned to use the Beechcraft King Air as a staff aircraft, as well as a light transport aircraft.
It is worth noting that by the early 1960s, Beechcraft had a wealth of experience building light multipurpose aircraft equipped with piston and jet engines. In this regard, the King Air has become a compromise machine, the ideal middle ground in the line, striking a balance of good performance, cost and ease of use.
The Beechcraft King Air flew faster and taller than the company's other piston-powered aircraft, and had the ability to take off and land at small airports and from short airstrips, including unpaved and unprepared ones.
The new aircraft was mass-produced since 1964 and was actively used by the military to solve a variety of tasks.
In addition to transport functions and the transportation of soldiers and passengers, the aircraft could perform sanitary tasks, conduct reconnaissance of the area, engage in aerial photography, and provide communication needs. In passenger versions, the aircraft was equipped with a pressurized cabin, in transport versions, only the cockpit could be pressurized.
The first Beechcraft King Air 90 models received the designations U-21 and RU-21 in the US military. These aircraft, in addition to a crew of two, could take on board up to 10 military personnel with full equipment, up to 6-8 command personnel in the headquarters version, or three stretchers in the ambulance version. At the same time, the aircraft cabin could be easily altered for various needs, freeing up space for useful equipment weighing up to 1 kg.
The first aircraft models were equipped with Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-20 or PT6A-29 turboprop engines, which developed power of 550 or 620 hp. with. respectively.
Today, the latest models of this aircraft are still powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, but their power has increased to 1 hp. with. Engines of this power PT050A-6 (PT60A-6A) are installed on Beechcraft King Air 60/300 aircraft.
The Super King Air series, which began development in 1969, featured an oversized wing, more fuel on board, more powerful engines and an increased takeoff weight. At the same time, the main visual difference was the appearance of a T-shaped tail unit.
The new aircraft were widely used commercially and also found themselves in the military and civilian service.
The aircraft of the Super King Air series, as before, are widely represented in the armed forces, as well as various law enforcement agencies around the world. At the same time, modifications were widely used that were used as tactical reconnaissance and patrol aircraft.
In addition to the United States, Beechcraft King Air aircraft have been actively supplied to Washington's allies around the world: from Japan and Indonesia to Israel and NATO countries. A large number of these aircraft are still operated in the UK and other European countries.
The performance characteristics of the Beechcraft King Air 350
The Beechcraft King Air 350i aircraft are today a fairly common modification, on the basis of which aircraft for various purposes have been created.
This aircraft received practical PWC PT6A-60A turboprop engines with a maximum power of 1 hp. with. The aircraft is equipped with two such engines. Their power is enough to accelerate the aircraft to a speed of 050 km / h.
The practical ceiling for this model is 10 meters. The maximum flight range is 668 km. With a takeoff weight of 3 kg, the payload can reach 345 kg. The aircraft's crew consists of 6–800 people, the maximum cabin capacity is 2 people. In most commercial modifications - up to 300-1 people.
The maximum length of the aircraft is 14,22 m, the wingspan is 17,65 m, the height is 4,37 m. The wing area is 28,8 square meters. This model is characterized by the following dimensions of the cabin: 5,94x1,37x1,45 m (LxWxH).
The cockpit and salon are completely sealed. All aircraft are equipped with retractable tricycle landing gear. All modern models are equipped with a "glass cockpit" with high resolution LCD displays and electronic control system.
Beechcraft King Air turboprop aircraft are widely used as tactical reconnaissance vehicles.
There are more than 25 reconnaissance modifications of this aircraft in service with different countries. In the American army, such aircraft have been widely used for over 40 years, starting with the RU-21E modification. Since 1984, these machines have been indexed RC-12.
Reconnaissance vehicles are also operated in the Royal Air Force of Great Britain, where the aircraft Shadow R1 ("Shadow") is in service. This aircraft is based on the Beechcraft King Air 350CER aircraft. The British tactical reconnaissance aircraft Shadow R1 belongs to ISTAR aircraft - tactical reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance.
These aircraft are essential for the command to raise awareness of what is happening on the ground and in the air, helping in the decision-making process in a combat situation. Situational awareness is essential in today's warfare.
British aircraft Shadow R1 is equipped with modern electro-optical surveillance systems, infrared systems, radar with a reverse synthetic aperture. This radar is used to create a high-resolution, two-dimensional image of a target. Also, this modification has a missile attack warning system on board and can carry electronic warfare means.
At the same time, the systems and complexes of equipment installed on board Beechcraft King Air aircraft can be very extensive. Installation of FoPEN lidars and radars is possible. The latest radars are specifically designed for military and border guards to detect and track moving targets even through dense foliage.
The appeal of Beechcraft King Air aircraft in the era of ubiquitous unmanned reconnaissance aviation due to a number of obvious advantages of traditional turboprop technology.
Aircraft King Air, despite the limited time in the air - up to 8 hours (which is less than a number of modern reconnaissance UAVs), are able to carry on board over a ton of various payloads of reconnaissance at high altitudes and at increased flight speed. These are real medium-altitude scouts that cannot be hit by short-range and short-range air defense systems.
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