Utility turboprops have historically dominated the special mission category, and in China that means the Cessna Caravan and the Beechcraft King Air.

The King Air 350 is on show here to illustrate its growing popularity across the spectrum from training to seeding clouds for rain.

“The King Air has turned out to be very suitable for this market,” says Bill Schultz, Textron Aviation’s senior vice president for business development in China. “Special mission roles include VIP transport, charter, regional airline service, weather data collection, maritime patrol, air ambulance, aerial mapping and search and rescue. Every other day someone comes up with something more to do with it.”

Modifications have become easier “as the CAAC (Civil Aviation Authority of China) recognizes that we are experts in special mission.”

As recently as last November, Textron Aviation announced the sale of two King Air 350ER turboprops to Sichuan Xihua General Aviation Co., Ltd. The order was sold through Beechcraft’s channel partner in China, Avion Pacific. Xihua Aviation will use the King Airs for various missions including aerial mapping, medevac and weather modification.

“I took an order for two aircraft just the other day,” says Schultz. “One was for a Caravan on floats, the other for a King Air to set up a regional shuttle for hotels in a tourism area.

“There’s a lot of new life, new money, getting into utility aviation. The seeds are there, and we’re seeing them germinating.”