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New GE engine could be springboard for next-gen King Air, forecaster says

Business aviation forecaster Rolland Vincent thinks GE Aviation’s new turboprop engine could be the catalyst for a new Beechcraft King Air.
Business aviation forecaster Rolland Vincent thinks GE Aviation’s new turboprop engine could be the catalyst for a new Beechcraft King Air. File photo

Textron Aviation’s next new turboprop could be a next-generation Beechcraft King Air.

That’s what business aviation forecaster Rolland Vincent thinks.

Vincent said the advanced turboprop engine that GE Aviation is developing for the Cessna Denali, unveiled at this week’s AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wis., would make a strong candidate for a revamped twin-turboprop King Air.

The GE engine promises a number of features that Vincent said aren’t found in other turboprop engines including 20 percent lower fuel burn, 10 percent more cruise power and easier pilot operation.

What’s more, if the Wichita-based aircraft manufacturer were to use the new engine to power a freshened King Air it would firm Textron Aviation’s control of the twin-turboprop market for longer — and attract a built-in base of thousands of existing King Air owners who would be tempted move to a newer King Air with engines other than Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PT6A engines.

The PT6A engine has been a staple of the King Air — and many other twin turboprops on the market — for decades.

“They could really turn (the twin turboprop market) around and make it a very dynamic sales environment,” with a re-engined King Air, Vincent, managing director of JetNet iQ, said Thursday. “Ultimately the bigger opportunity is the next-generation King Airs.”

Vincent said engines drive airplanes, not the other way around. Case in point, Pratt’s new geared turbofan engine. That jet engine is a big selling point for Bombardier’s new C Series jetliner, Airbus’ A320 neo (new engine option) and the Mitsubishi Regional Jet.

“That new engine enabled a whole new generation of airframes,” he said.

He thinks that will be true of GE’s new turboprop engine, too. That’s assuming that GE will be able to hit its certification and delivery targets with the new engine, which is being developed in a new factory in Eastern Europe.

“Typically any new program is late, takes more money than you think,” Vincent said. “Unfortunately, for the new Denali there’s schedule risk related to the engine.”

“It’s still early … but (the new engine) looks very promising. And GE is a massive organization with the deepest capabilities.”

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