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Beechcraft Celebrates 50 Years of the Highly Successful King Air Turboprop

N1TX poses for photo shoot at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
N1TX poses for photo shoot at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport
Joe Fernandez - Joe Fernandez Imaging

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the official introduction of one of the most popular twin-turboprop (jet powered prop) aircraft ever built.....the Beechcraft King Air. Originally derived from the piston engined Queen Air, the King Air has become over the years, more popular than other types of planes in its class until being somewhat slightly challenged with the development of smaller and cheaper private jet aircraft.

Extensive testing began in 1963 with a modified Queen Air fitted with Pratt & Whitney turboprops which was known at the time as the model 87. After completion of the test program and modifications, the first flight of the new designated Model 90 was in 1964. First deliveries began later that year. The US Army became one of the early customers of the turboprop. Immediately, it caught the attention of not only private customers, but governments of other countries as well. The Beechcraft King Air 90 and was the first of the many models of King Airs to come.

Throughout its successful history, a very large number of variants of the King Air have been built. From these early Model 90s to the Super King Air family of planes. Several popular commuter airliners were also derived from the King Air / Super King Air design such as the Beech 99 and the 1900 series. Well over 7,000 King Airs have been delivered and production still continues to this date with several advanced models including the 250, 350i, and C90GTx.

In America, a number of King Airs have been operated by various government agencies like the FAA, DEA, and the Forest Service which uses them for a number of jobs including as lead/supervisory planes to guide the larger fire tankers making drops. Many states also use the King Airs for their corporate aircraft. Countries which have used or still use the various models in their military and/or government include Canada, Japan, Indonesia, Spain, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, South Korea, United Kingdom, South Africa, and even Iraq. The King Air is also popular with those that do surveying, mapping, air ambulance, surveillance, and even intelligence work. For additional information, please visit the Beechcraft Corporation main website at