Civilian utility aircraft often prove versatile enough that they become just as popular in the military marketplace as anywhere else. This proved the case with the Beechcraft King Air series after it was introduced in September of 1964. A major variant of the family line became the "Super King Air" form which went on to find homes in many of the inventories of major military players including the United States Air Force (USAF). The Super King Air was flown in prototype form in October of 1972 and saw service introduction (for military service interestingly enough) that same year. The civilian market, utility-minded form followed in February of 1974.
With notable, serial production starting in 1974, the Super King Air has remained in manufacture since with totals nearing 4,000 units. The Beechcraft 1900 series and C-12 "Huron" both owe their originations to the popular Super King Air.
The Super King Air follows the same form and function of its predecessor. It sports a lengthened, pointed nosecone ahead of the side-by-side seating cockpit. The straight-edged, clipped monoplane wings are seated low against the fuselage sides and well-ahead of midships. The fuselage is lined with windows for passenger viewing. The tail unit relies on a T-style plane arrangement. Each wing is home to a single turboprop engine housed in a streamlined nacelle. Depending on production model, this powerplant may drive anywhere between three to five blades. Ground-running is accomplished by a tricycle undercarriage that is completely retractable into the aircraft to maintain streamlining.
Modern Super King Airs are powered by the popular Pratt & Whitney Canada (PWC) PT6 series turboprop engine offering the needed performance.
The Super King Air line began with the Model 200 of which 858 were built. The U.S. Army took three of these into inventory under the A100-1 designation for evaluations. This led to the A200 of which 75 were built for the service as well as the USAF. The 200T offered wingtip fuel tanks for increased range as well as revised windows and a modular ventral section for equipment. Just 23 of this mark were delivered.
The A200C was used by the United States Navy (USN) and United States Marine Corps (USMC) and was delivered with a cargo door at the rear portside side of the fuselage to facilitate fuselage entry/exit. Total production equaled 90 units. The 200C was the civilian version of this mark and 36 followed. The civilian market A200CT was the militarized A200CT.
The B200 included updates to separate itself from the earlier Model 200 offering and this definitive form saw production reach 1,157 units before the end. The B200C included the cargo access door and 112 followed including C012F models for the USAF. The B200T were 23 examples of the Model 200T born from existing B200 airframes. The B200CT was the B200C with the optional wingtip fuel tanks. The B200 (also known as the King Air 250) was given new composite "scimitar" style propeller units, winglets, and improved short-field performance.
The B200GT is the modernized form of the B200 for the civilian marketplace. The B200CGT is the B200C for civilian use but production is limited.
The Model 300 primarily consists of the King Air 300 and King Air 350 with the newer King Air 360 since joining the fray. The Model 300 and related 300LW differ in MTOW ratings, the latter reduced from 14,000lb to 12,500lb. The B300 has a lengthened fuselage and features winglets for improved fuel economy and control. The B300C (King Air 350C) has the cargo door and optional underwing hardpoints. This mark includes the related 350iC and 350iCER forms. The 350i is the B300 model of 2009 with upgrades.
The newer model 360 and 360ER (Extended Range) of mid-2020 offers a completely revised internal look as well as auto-throttles and automatic pressurization for higher-altitude flying.
The Model 1300 Commuter exists as a regional airliner model with seating for up to 13 passengers. Additional baggage storage is included. Just fourteen of this mark were made from 1989-1990. The Blackhawk XP67A is a developmental model fitted PT6A-67A engines with five-bladed propellers offering increased power and performance.
In military service, the versatility of the Super King Air shows through as it has been given a wide variety of tasks, depending on the operator, that includes maritime patrol, VIP transport, Electronic Warfare (EW), general reconnaissance, aerial surveillance / surveying, MEDEVAC, border patrol, and flight / crew / systems training. Operating countries range from Algeria and Angola to Venezuela and Yemen. All four U.S. services operate one form of the Super King Air or another. Beyond this, the series also stocks the inventories of government operators including Australia and Britain.
Chile, Hong Kong, Ireland, and Sweden have since retired their fleets.