Page 16 - Volume 13 Number 1
P. 16

Ask the Expert
The Amazing History of BB-1
by Tom Clements
 Iwas fortunate to be employed by the Beech Aircraft Corporation’s Training Center during most of the development and certification process for the most popular King Air of all time, the model 200. I was the first ground and flight instructor for this model and had the privilege of learning directly from the engineers and test pilots. I want to tell you about this model’s development and, specifically, about BB-1, the very first member of this family of airplanes. Of course, I do not know every detail of the development process and, if I did, it would take an entire book to thoroughly present the entire story. So, this article only covers some of my personal experiences with the great model 200 and, specifically, the story of BB-1.
The King Air made its appearance in 1964 as the model 65-90, better known as the “Straight 90.” The A90 came in 1966 to replace the 65-90, and in 1968 the A90 was superseded by the B90. The success that the King Air
obtained encouraged Beech to develop a larger version. Picking the tail, landing gear and wings from their “parts bin” – systems that had been previously designed, certified, and manufactured for the Model 99 Airliner – they combined it with a King Air fuselage lengthened by 4 feet and the model 100 was born. Customer deliveries of that larger King Air commenced in 1969 and an enhanced version, the A100, replaced it in 1972.
Although the 100-series enjoyed moderate sales success – customers really liked the roomier interior due to the extra length added – it did not have eye-opening performance. Much like the B90, powered by the 550 SHP PT6A-20 engine, the 100 and A100, powered by the 680 SHP PT6A-28, were not known for their stellar climb nor blistering speed. Rarely could the full-rated horsepower be utilized except at sea level on cooler days. The 99/100 wings – about 5 feet shorter than the B90 wings, but the same span as on the 65-90 and A90 wing with a drooped
center section leading edge – were optimized for low altitude operation on the unpressurized model 99 and performance suffered when used much above 20,000 feet. It became obvious that the 100’s cabin size was popular and if it could be combined with much improved performance, Beech would have a real winner on their hands. Thus, was the impetus for designing the model 200.
At first, this new King Air had the internal Beech designation of “Model 101.” After all, it was exactly the same size as the 100 just with more performance. Even now, most factory
parts unique to the 200 begin with the “101-” part number prefix. It was not until just before the model had its official public debut that Mrs. Olive Ann Beech herself suggested the name be changed to “Super King Air 200.” Some of the Beech employees – and I was one! – turned their noses up at this idea, thinking the name was too long and pretentious. But when I first flew it ... wow, it really was “super!” (As a side note, when the Beech Model 18 got its 4-inch higher cabin in the mid ’50s with the change
       Trusted experts on King Air engine accessories & starter generators since 1965
             Parts & Accessories  Wichita, KS 67211 AN

   14   15   16   17   18