US manufacturer Beechcraft is aggressively promoting its turboprop aircraft to the Russian private and regional market. Two Beechcraft models are present here at JetExpo 2013. A King Air 350i, which is already familiar to Russian customers, is on the company’s stand, while a King Air C90GTx is in the static park. The 350i is so far the only Beechcraft product to have been certified in Russia, but the company plans to get the C90GTx and 250i models approved before the end of the year. In parallel, the manufacturer is in talks over setting up several King Air warranty stations in Russia.
Both the King Air 250 and C90GTx models have a competitive edge in their class, Beechcraft sources say. Unlike most of their peers, these are twin-engined aircraft, which improves safety. Both models can take off from unpaved strips, a particularly handy parameter in view of Russia’s somewhat degraded airfield infrastructure. Both have composite winglets for enhanced performance. Russian demand for King Air is unlikely to increase explosively in the foreseeable future, the primary reason being that there are too few PPL holders in Russia as compared to the USA, where one in five citizens hold a private pilot’s license. Nevertheless, Beechcraft products do have a market niche in this country. Their principal customers include general and regional aviation operators, as well as private pilots and businesspersons in need of dependable workhorses. However, even the manufacturer finds it hard to appraise the potential market potential: "Nobody can estimate the current market; in the Soviet times, different [Russian] aircraft types were represented by hundreds of examples, whereas now only few of each type are in operation". For the time being, the most popular Beechcraft model in Russia is now the King Air 350i, which is capable of transporting eight to 12 passengers to 3,500 km.