Page 18 - Volume 13 Number 1
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prepared for its maiden flight. As the time grew near, Chairwoman of the Board, Mrs. Beech and President Frank Hedrick arrived on-site in Mrs. Beech’s “Beech blue” Cadillac to take their positions of honor. Jim Webber, the head of Beech’s Experimental Flight Test department, was in the left seat and Bud Francis, who was slated to become the head of the 200 flight test project, was in the right seat.
BB-1, N38B, was painted all white with black numbers. If you looked closely, you would have observed two noticeable differences between BB-1 on this day and the later 200s to come. First, the junction of the horizontal and vertical stabilizers at the top of the T-Tail was smooth, with no “bullet” projecting forward. Second, the ailerons were identical to the ones on the A100 and B90, ending where the wingtip began. (Some turbulence originating at the T-Tail junction was eliminated by the “bullet” that was installed during the flight-test program. The longer wings and more powerful engines made the original ailerons a bit lacking in effectiveness and this problem was eliminated when the 200’s ailerons were redesigned to extend all the way to the end of the wing. The trailing edge of the wingtip extension was cut away and a third aileron hinge point was added.)
The engines were started, pre-takeoff checks completed, and then she taxied down the runway to
the north end, made a U-turn and took off southbound, climbing out over the assembled crowd before turning east and climbing out of sight. What a thrill to witness the first time a 200 entered the bright blue sky!
About an hour later BB-1 returned to Beech Field. The crowd had moved to the north end of the runway to get a better view of the landing. Jim came in low over the wires and then used maximum reverse to show off the short stopping distance of this newest King Air. It was most impressive! BB-1 did a 180 and taxied back to its parking spot near the crowd. As the engines spooled down and Mrs. Beech and Mr. Hedrick stood by the door to welcome the crew, a worrisome murmur began to be heard in the crowd. What the ...? Was the prototype going to burn up right before our eyes? White smoke had started to pour out of both sides’ exhaust stacks! About the time the cabin door started down, the smoke stopped and we all breathed a welcome sigh of relief.
You see, the 200 was the first King Air model in which residual fuel in the nozzle manifolds would no longer be permitted to dump onto the ramp at shutdown. Allowing it to drip into the hot combustion chamber liner was the cause of the white smoke ... fuel “steam” you might say. Some work remained for the engineers to perfect that initial Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Kit!
A month later BB-2, the second prototype, had its first flight. This airplane sported a complete paint job and interior, very different from the stark non-upholstered interior of BB-1. BB-2 was the first to carry the N200KA registration number; you likely have seen its picture. It was used for systems integration and icing tests. BB-2 was actually the first 200 that I ever flew, getting instruction from test pilot Mike Preston on a cross-country flight to and from Colorado. Later, I flew
BB-1 with Bud Francis. I have written about some of the things I learned from Bud in that airplane ... such as the power of the T-Tail and the tendency to “self-rotate” at the initiation of a highspeed abort.
When the 200’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification program was completed – the Type Certificate was issued in November 1973, just 13 months after first flight – BB-1 was tied down on the grass by a Beech hangar and flown very rarely. BB-2 kept being fairly active as the first factory demonstrator.
          16 • KING AIR MAGAZINE

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