The Beechcraft King Air 200 and 350 are versions of the Super King Air series. These are evolutions of a design that can trace its origins back to the venerable Beechcraft Twin Bonanza, introduced after the Second World War had ended.
The Super King Air family is the pinnacle of the Beechcraft twin turboprop segment. The American company, now a subsidiary of Textron Aviation, tried to replace the King Air family with a revolutionary clean sheet design in the late 1980s.
The supposed end of the King Air was the Beechcraft Starship. The aircraft had a pusher prop configuration, futuristic lines, and composite materials for its structure. I wrote about the rise and fall of the Starship here
While the Starship landed face first, its failure did not bother the Super King Air. Beechcraft continued to work on new variants of this workhorse and continues to produce better King Airs today.
I will walk you through the differences between the King Air Model 200 and the King Air 350 and how Beechcraft arrived at the current production model.
Bottom Line Up Front
The King Air 200 is a cheap way to get similar performance for domestic routes in a cockpit layout that is familiar to those coming from smaller aircraft. At the same time, pilots and owners with more stringent airspace, range, and comfort requirements will find that these capabilities are exclusive to the more expensive King Air 350.
The Main Differences Between the King Air 200 vs. 350
The Beechcraft Model 200 and 350 are Super King Air versions. This is the ultimate version of the King Air, though the original variants stayed in serial production from 1964 until 2021. Beechcraft eventually did away with the Super moniker.
In 1969, the Beechcraft King Air ruled the twin-engine turboprop market. The company saw room for growth and moved ahead with a project to improve the King Air. The starting point of what would become the Super King Air was the Model 100.
Engineers at Beechcraft mated the Model 100 fuselage with a high T-tail instead of the conventional tailplane on older King Air variants. The aircraft used the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-41 variant with 850 shaft horsepower. Besides the new tail and more powerful engines, Beechcraft also increased the wingspan and fuel capacity.
The result of these changes was the Beechcraft Model 200. The aircraft flew in 1972 and entered service with the United States Army. FAA certification took another year, and it was only in 1974 that the first Model 200 reached its first civilian customer.
The Model 200 represented the baseline Super King Air, while the Model 350 is its ultimate form. Beechcraft rode the wave from the Model 200 popularity and began work to improve the airframe.
With the Model 300, the engines became the even more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-60A with 1050 shp each, almost twice as much as the PT6A versions installed on the Model 100. The shape of the engine cowling changed substantially, and this remains one of the easiest ways to tell a Model 300 and 350 from a Model 200 airframe.
While the Model 200 engines remained similar to the Model 100 ones, with the flush air intake, the Model 300 incorporated a more pronounced air intake with the lips protruding past the base of the propeller hub.
The Model 300 of the Super King Air hit the market in 1984. Despite having high hopes for the Starship project, Beechcraft continued work on improved King Air versions. The King Air 350 started taking shape in 1988.
The King Air 350 was a refinement of the Model 300. The fuselage grew slightly to allow for double club seating arrangements, popular among executive passengers. The cabin also got another pair of windows. Beechcraft added winglets on the wing tips to improve fuel consumption.
With time, the King Air Model 350 got further and further from the Model 200. Later versions of the King Air 350 received the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite, popular among smaller airliners and business jets, and improved sound isolation. Beechcraft also released a long-range version in 2005.
In 2008 the Beechcraft King Air 350i series entered the market, focusing on the passenger cabin. It sported lighting controls and entertainment ports in every seat. There are also original iPod docks (and USB ports if you are not living in 2008). The sound isolation was improved again, so listening to your favorite tunes in flight is a more pleasant experience.
The King Air 350i prices start at $7.75 million, a significant jump from the $5.3 million listing price on the Model 200.
King Air 200
- Flush engine intake similar to the Model 100
- Weaker engines
- Steam gauge cockpit on earlier builds
- No winglets
- Considerably cheaper
King Air 350
- Protruding engine intake
- New and more powerful engines
- Partial or full-glass cockpit depending on the year
- Silent cabin
- Winglets for improved fuel consumption and range metrics
The King Air Model 200 and 350 are similar. They fly and feel the same in the air, which is to say both are a joy to pilot. There are some nuances to mind between the two models.
The flight deck of most Model 200 units is decidedly old school. The pilot sits behind a flight director mounted over a horizontal situation indicator (HSI). The arrangement is very similar to the iconic one found on the Republic F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bomber of Vietnam fame, except the airspeed indicator is in a traditional dial shape rather than a vertical tape.
Most engine instruments and radios are also on the pilot’s side, just to the right of the primary set. Beechcraft added a modest six-pack of less dramatic dimensions to the co-pilot seat.
A four-by-five set of warning lights sits atop the console between the crewmembers. The communication and navigation radio sets are in the middle of the dashboard, accessible to both the pilot and co-pilot.
A cursory glance at different Model 200 cockpits will quickly show you no two aircraft are created equal. The original panel had a weather radar scope down the middle. Beechcraft began gradually upgrading the instruments, while some owners installed aftermarket modifications.
The second generation of Model 200 cockpits kept the overall layout, replacing the primary instruments and radio frequency indicators with LCD displays. The King Air 350 shared this configuration in its infancy.
The first leap in the King Air 350 cockpit was the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite introduced in 2003. This replaced the analog instruments with three large rectangular displays, one multifunctional unit per crewman, plus a primary flight one down the middle, skewed closer to the pilot.
The success of the Pro Line 21 paved the way for the Pro Line Fusion, also from the Rockwell Collins portfolio. Beechcraft made the Fusion the standard suite in the new King Air 350i series. Rockwell Collins also offers the upgrade as an aftermarket option for aircraft fitted with the Pro Line 21 avionics.
A quick look at the Pro Line Fusion flight deck tells you this is in a different league from the original King Air 200. Three widescreen displays cover the entire dashboard. The crew enjoys modern amenities like synthetic vision and high-resolution topographic maps.
Climb performance is noticeably better on the King Air 350. This is due to the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-60A engines, which offer around 25% more power than the PT6A-42 on the Model 200.
The Beechcraft Super King Air has been a reliable hit with owners from its inception. The company identified a host of different segments that required an aircraft with the basic profile of the King Air. There are a few differences between the Model 200 and Model 350.
For private owners or companies, both versions of the Super King Air offer range on par with business jets, with dramatically lower fuel consumption. The Model 200 has a range of 1720 nautical miles, while the long-range King Air 350ER with additional fuel capacity extended up to 2670 nmi.
To put this in perspective, this is longer than the Embraer Phenom 300E, which has a similar passenger capacity. Yes, the Super King Air remains a turboprop, so the trip will take substantially longer, but the fuel savings are worth it if you can spare the time.
The main differences for prospective Super King Air owners are range and short-field performance. The King Air 350 can break past 1800 nautical miles and reach 2670 nmi in the ER version. Taking full advantage of the latter figures requires a late-series avionics suite like the Pro Line 21 or Pro Line Fusion for airspace clearances.
The additional fuel on the King Air 350ER takes its maximum takeoff weight to 16500 lbs, compared to 12500 lbs on the Model 200. This change doubled the takeoff run from 2110 ft to 4060 ft.
Another good display of the King Air’s flexibility is the number of specialized military variants spawned by both series. The United States military, for example, has a mix of Model 200 and Model 300 King Airs in all branches.
The King Air 350 has become popular in the intelligence and reconnaissance role. Beechcraft once marketed a specialist variant called the King Air 350 Special Mission. These aircraft are in service with the Canadian, British, and Iraqi militaries.
This is the one area where the King Air 350 has a distinct advantage over the Model 200. The cabin design was one of the focuses for Beechcraft when designing the King Air 350 using the Model 300 as a starting point, and it shows.
The added windows and double club seating on the King Air 350 make for a pleasant interior. This becomes even more noticeable when flying aboard the King Air 350i series with its improved entertainment system and trays.
To give the Model 200 credit, it remains a comfortable ride, especially with how old the cabin design is. Some King Air regulars argue that a Model 200 cabin arranged for six passengers is more comfortable than the standard King Air 350 one set up for eight.
The History of the Super King Air
King Air: Origins
In the 1960s, Beechcraft was unstoppable. The company had capitalized on its post-war momentum, and its portfolio was a hit across multiple segments. The 1947 Beech Bonanza had cemented the company as a leader in general aviation hotrods. Mooney and Piper enthusiasts like to dispute this claim due to price, reliability, and flight safety, but as far as performance goes, Beechcraft was clearly ahead of the competition.
Beechcraft also offered twin-engine props in the shape of the Model 50 Twin Bonanza and the Queen Air. These aircraft relied on Lycoming piston engines for propulsion and targeted the executive and military utility and training segments. Piston engines made aircraft accessible but also limited performance.
In 1963, Beechcraft mated the brand-new Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A turboprop to a Queen Air airframe. The prototype was impressive enough to warrant a United States Army order for 152 units.
Deliveries of the military NU-8F started in 1964. That same year, Beechcraft finished trials for the civilian Model 65-90 variant. The new model earned the name King Air and quickly became a hit in the general aviation and military markets.
Early King Air models were broadly unpressurized and carried up to seven passengers plus two crew. There was plenty of demand for this aircraft, but Beechcraft decided to go bigger. In May 1969, the company unveiled the King Air Model 100.
This variant featured a longer fuselage with five windows on each side, plus a longer wingspan and empennage borrowed from the Beechcraft Model 99 regional airliner. Another inheritance from the Model 99 was the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-28 engine. The changes gave the Model 100 higher cruise speeds on top of a more spacious interior.
Designing the Super King Air
The Model 100 series was a hit, but there was a consensus among engineers and executives at Beechcraft that the company needed a more ambitious proposal to keep its edge. The King Air was a solid design, so a newer iteration should build upon the work already done. The main performance goal was a cruise speed of 300 miles per hour.
The concept came up as Model 101 before rebranding it to Model 200. Engineers decided to mate the fuselage of the Model 100 with the uprated PT6A-41 engines, capable of 850 shp each.
The more powerful engines had a bigger propeller diameter, which required moving the turboprops further from the fuselage to lower noise levels. Extending the wings also made room for larger fuel tanks. The Model 200 prototype had a maximum takeoff weight of 12500 lbs.
More powerful engines and more fuel are a good thing. However, Beechcraft found that this hurt single-engine controllability past the point where it was viable, as the rudder did not have enough authority to reliably counter the yaw from the operating engine.
Wind tunnel tests showed the empennage limited how much could be done to fix the problem, so the design team got to work with a clear goal. The result was a high T-tail with a large rudder that improved controllability and lowered the pedal forces required during flight with a single engine. The T-tail became the signature feature of the next King Air generation.
There were other unintended benefits from the new configuration. The elevators ended up further aft than those on the regular King Air, which gave them better authority and allowed Beechcraft to use a traditional design over the all-moving one previously applied.
Pitch stability improved, with test pilots reporting much less dramatic trim changes when working the flaps and continuously responsive controls with the center of gravity four inches past the limit on the Model 100.
The first prototypes in production configuration rolled out in 1972 and spent over a year in flight testing. The Federal Aviation Administration certified the Model 200 in December 1973. Deliveries began in 1974.
Beechcraft built 830 units of the King Air 200 between 1974 and 1981, including military utility and reconnaissance versions. The United States military was the primary customer, with a large fleet operating under the C-12 designation.
The Road to the King Air 350
After a successful decade of producing the Model 200 and its derivatives, Beechcraft continued upgrading the Super King Air to keep it relevant. The first evolution was the Model 300.
The new version had more powerful PT6A-60A engines producing 1050 shp each, with a new protruding air intake. The airframe received many minute changes to reduce drag. The uprated engines allowed for a maximum takeoff weight of 14000 lbs.
Deliveries of the Model 300 started in 1984. By then, executives at Beechcraft were pursuing two parallel paths. In 1979, the company launched a program to replace the King Air with a clean sheet design. Three years later, Scaled Composites joined the project that would eventually become the Beechcraft Starship.
Despite plans to phase out the King Air line, Beechcraft continued to invest in upgrades to make the transition into the Starship smoother. This decision potentially saved the company, as the Starship program was a disaster in most respects, albeit an elegant one.
While the Starship struggled through its development, the King Air 350 entered service in 1990. This was an upgrade on the Model 300 with a fuselage stretch, double club seats, another window, and winglets. The changes brought the weight of the baseline version up to 15000 lbs.
The King Air 350 has gone through a couple of names. Its official company designation is Model B300, though many pilots call it the Model 350. The marketing name started as the Super King Air 350, but shortly after its launch, Beechcraft renamed it King Air 350.
After many salvage attempts, the Starship project was finally laid to rest. The King Air once again stood as the lone flagship of the Beechcraft twin utility portfolio almost half a century after its introduction.
To keep the King Air 350 current, Beechcraft began fitting new aircraft with the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite, starting in October 2003. The new cockpit layout was a far cry from the original panel, which essentially mimicked the Model 200 but with some digital displays for individual instruments.
The Pro Line 21 added three tall rectangular color displays, one multifunctional set per crew member, and a central primary flight display. From the inside, the King Air units outfitted with this avionics suite look more like a regional airliner than a general aviation turboprop. The dark accents on the cabin also made it look phenomenal, and we all know that style points count.
In search of additional range, Beechcraft announced the King Air 350ER (Extended Range) in 2005. The maximum takeoff weight rose to 16500 lbs, but the aircraft could now reach 2670 nautical miles.
The King Air 350ER can fly non-stop transatlantic routes, an incredible achievement for an aircraft in its class. The FAA certified the aircraft in November 2007, and deliveries commenced shortly.
In October 2008, the next generation of the King Air 350 entered production. The King Air 350i focuses primarily on the passenger experience, with entertainment options, noise levels, and overall comfort on par with business jets.
Beechcraft offers the baseline King Air 350i for $7.75 million, while the long-range King Air 350ER costs $8.8 million. The prices may seem high for a turboprop, but the operational costs make the aircraft pay itself over a short time compared to a jet.
King Air 200
The Beechcraft King Air Model 200 is the first Super King Air. It came out as the next generation of the ubiquitous Model 100 and honored the legacy of its predecessors. The most distinct features of the Model 200 over the first-generation King Air are the high T-tail and the extra cabin window.
The Model 200 seats six passengers and a crew of two, though it is certified for single-pilot operations. Its maximum takeoff weight of 12500 lbs puts it in the twilight zone for certification. Pilots in the United States do not need a type rating to fly the Super King Air 200, but this is not the case in other countries.
Two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-41 turboprop engines power the Model 200. The aircraft has a maximum range of 1720 nautical miles, though its practical number is closer to 1490 nmi.
A pressurized cabin allows the Model 200 to cruise at high altitudes, with a service ceiling of 35000 ft. The nominal cruise speed is 272 knots or 313 miles per hour, exceeding the 300 mph goal outlined in the design phase. The maximum speed in level flight is 289 knots, with economic cruise settings of 225 knots.
The flight deck of the Model 200 is nearly identical to that of the King Air 100. The pilot enjoys a flight director that sits over a horizontal situation indicator. These are flanked by an airspeed indicator, a compass, a slip ball on the left, and an altimeter and variometer or vertical speed indicator (VSI) on the right.
The central part of the dashboard has two columns of engine instruments, plus a weather radar and radio panel as the centerpiece. The co-pilot enjoys similar amenities to the pilot, but the flight director gives way to an attitude indicator.
Late production models of the King Air 200 received a minor digital cockpit upgrade, replacing many analog instruments with LCD equivalents. Some owners also installed Garmin or Rockwell Collins avionics suites to their Model 200.
Beechcraft sold the Model 200 for $5.3 million, considerably less than its more modern successors, with performance not too far from later variants. A distinct advantage of the King Air 200, as a lighter aircraft, is that it enjoys significantly shorter runway requirements.
- Cheaper to acquire and operate
- No type rating required
- Shorter takeoff and landing performance
- Satisfactory range and cruise speed
- Outdated cockpit layout
- Limited cabin amenities for passengers
- Much shorter range than the King Air 350ER line
- Tricky engine-out handling for inexperienced pilots
King Air 350
The King Air 350 is the ultimate version of the King Air. It is a showstopper on the ramp, blending the classic King Air looks with modern winglets and yet another cabin window. Next to the Model 200, the King Air 350 also sports the changes introduced with the Model 300. Thanks to a cabin stretch, the King Air 350 typically flies with eight passenger seats plus a crew of two.
A pair of new Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-60A engines producing 1050 shp each help compensate for the higher takeoff weight, set at 15000 lbs for the baseline King Air 350 and 16500 lbs for the King Air 350ER series.
Two unintended consequences of the higher maximum takeoff weight are the much longer takeoff and landing run and the requirement for a type rating in most countries.
In practical terms, forget about short rough fields that the older versions tackled without issue, and the type rating will cost you some on top of the more expensive aircraft.
Despite these setbacks, the King Air 350 works comfortably in territory beyond the capabilities of the Model 200. The main trump card of the King Air 350 is range. The original version can fly out to 1806 nautical miles, and if you find that increment too small over the Model 200, the King Air 350ER has you covered. This variant has a range of 2670 nmi, which allows for non-stop transatlantic flights.
Cabin amenities are a highlight of the King Air 350i subvariant, introduced in 2008. The seats have USB chargers, iPod docks, built-in light controls, and trays for a more comfortable experience. These features are especially welcome in the ER variant of the King Air 350i.
Another selling point of the King Air 350 is the flight deck in late units. In late 2003, Beechcraft began fitting the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 avionics suite on all new units. This evolved into the Pro Line Fusion in the current production standard. These upgrades make the flight deck barely recognizable next to the first King Air 350, which shared the overall design with the late series of the King Air 200.
The King Air 350i sells for $7.75 million for the baseline version and $8.8 million for the Extended Range model.
- Higher passenger capacity
- Long range, especially in the King Air 350ER line
- Modern cockpit starting from 2003
- Excellent passenger comfort
- Expensive acquisition costs
- Type rating mandatory in most countries
- Long runway requirements
- Further complicated engine-out handling due to more powerful engines
The King Air 200 and King Air 350 are a couple of decades apart, and this shows in most creature comforts in the aircraft.
While overall handling characteristics are similarly pleasant (and unpleasant in engine-out scenarios), the crew on the King Air 350 typically enjoys a modern flight deck with the avionics suite as popular regional airliners such as the Embraer E-Jet family.
The transition between the King Air 350 and airliners is easy, and the same applies to the Model 200 and lighter general aviation aircraft. If you feel at home at your air club Bonanza or 172, the cockpit of the King Air 200 will welcome you with open arms.
I love the vintage Beechcraft layout with the cream dashboard and instruments in dark frames. The Bonanza and the Model 200 are nearly identical in that aspect.
The passenger cabin grew from six to eight seats between the Model 200 and the King Air 350. There are mixed opinions on this change. The added capacity is welcome for those who need it, but a Model 200 with six seats is still more spacious than a 350 with eight.
The modern interior on the King Air 350i remains the pinnacle of the King Air series, bringing this classic into the modern era and offering business jet experiences at turboprop prices.
The King Air 200 is lighter and enjoys less bureaucracy to fly in most countries. It also has shorter runway requirements and costs considerably less. On the other hand, the more expensive King Air 350 can fly more people, and the King Air 350ER is unmatched with its unrefueled transatlantic range.
Question: Can the King Air 200 or the King Air 350 fly a single pilot?
Answer: Yes, these Super King Air variants are certified for single-pilot operations. Most commercial Super King Air flights use a crew of two, however.
Question: Is the Super King Air still in production?
Answer: Yes. The Super King Air series currently holds the record for the longest continuous production run in its class, starting in 1972.
Question: Does the King Air 200 or King Air 350 have a toilet?
Answer: Yes, both variants of the Super King Air have a lavatory on board. This doubles as seating space for an extra passenger in maximum-capacity flights.
The takeaway between the comparison of the King Air 200 and King Air 350 is that while they are both members of the Super King Air family, they serve different segments in practice.
The Model 200 is a classic 1970s utility turboprop. It sports a timeless cockpit layout and a passenger interior that, while far from cutting edge, is extremely comfortable. With its comparatively low acquisition costs, lax certification requirements, and viable short-field performance, the King Air 200 is perfect for the pilot looking to cruise in style without breaking the bank or flying transcontinental.
The King Air 350 sometimes feels more like a private jet in disguise than a turboprop, provided you ignore the large PT6A poking out of each wing. This comparison comes with pros and cons. The King Air 350 has a fantastic avionics suite and cabin. The ER models have enough range to fly across the Atlantic without trouble.
At the same time, the acquisition costs can be prohibitive on top of the type rating to fly it in just about all countries. Your destination choice is smaller due to the long runways the King Air 350 needs to fly with any meaningful payload.
Which one is better? Well, it depends on what pilot you are. Do you need a Rockwell Collins glass cockpit, eight seats in the cabin, or a range to fly from North America to Europe regularly? If the answer is no, a low-hour King Air 200 gives you excellent performance at an affordable price.
However, if you require unrestricted access to most airspace blocks, a high passenger capacity, or a range to reach most places in the world with a couple of stops, then the King Air 350i or its ER version is an excellent choice.
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