Aviation

King Air airplane in Wichita crash had been sold back to Beechcraft

A Beechcraft Super King Air B200 at a National Business Aviation Association static display in 2007 at Fulton County Airport-Brown Field in Atlanta.
A Beechcraft Super King Air B200 at a National Business Aviation Association static display in 2007 at Fulton County Airport-Brown Field in Atlanta. The Wichita Eagle

The Beechcraft King Air B200 that crashed Thursday morning at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport was manufactured 15 years ago and had been reacquired by its manufacturer earlier this fall.

Federal Aviation Administration records show Beechraft Corp. at 10511 E. Central was the registered owner of the twin-engine turboprop airplane that received its airworthiness certificate on Dec. 18, 1999.

The airplane’s prior owner was Sheetz Inc., an Altoona, Pa.-based convenience store chain, said Sheetz spokeswoman Tarah Arnold. “We sold the plane on Sept. 25 … back to Beechcraft,” Arnold said.

An official from Textron Aviation, the owner of Beechcraft, said in an e-mail to The Eagle on Thursday that the company would not comment on any stories related to Thursday’s crash because it has been “invited” to participate in the National Transportation Safety Board investigation.

That investigation has just begun, and no conclusions about the cause of the deadly crash are expected for months. It typically takes more than a year for the NTSB to render a final report for an airplane crash, although it often releases preliminary data sooner.

Two aviation experts described the King Air line of airplanes as reliable.

“The 200 was the first King Air with a T-tail,” said David Bernstorf of BSC Consulting, who was an engineer at Beechcraft and its predecessor companies for 37 years. “When I came to work at Beech, that was the first project I was assigned to.”

Bernstorf said there have been a number of variations since the 200, the original certification of which was in December 1973. He said the B200 model, the type in Thursday’s crash, featured upgraded engines and an upgrade to its four-blade propellers.

“It’s a pretty rugged airplane, has good performance,” he said.

“It’s been around forever, and it’s a workhorse,” said John Eakin, owner of Texas-based Air Data Research. Eakin is a commercially licensed pilot and aircraft mechanic, and his company analyzes aircraft safety and crash information.

He also said the Pratt & Whitney turbine engines that power the King Air have the same characteristics as the airplane.

“It’s a good, solid engine that’s been around forever,” Eakin said.

He said the King Air traces its history back to the Beech Queen Air in the 1950s.

“Just offhand, I can’t think of any really spectacular problem that’s been found on them,” Eakin said.

“A lot of airplanes are known for problems. The King Air isn’t known for anything bad.”

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