Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) and Beechcraft are combining forces to forge a total tip-to-tail airframe and propulsion support package for the potential fleet of up to 100-plus King Air 350i aircraft ordered by start-up charter and business aircraft services company Wheels Up.
The deal covers firm orders for 35 aircraft and options for up to 70 more and, including the maintenance and services contract, is valued at up to $1.4 billion – a record amount for the general aviation market. The King Airs will form the core of a network of regional services for Wheels Up and a foundation for follow-on membership and other service plans by the company, which involve a range of aircraft to be operated by other large fleet owners.
“Because this is the largest order in general aviation history, it is hard to compare with anything before it, but we knew we would have had to get creative to provide the best support we could offer,” says Christi Tannahill, Senior Vice President, Global Customer Support for Beechcraft. “This is a unique program but it’s a new solution for customers, so we’re excited to see how this plays out,” she adds. The support package builds on both the existing relationship between the airframe and engine manufacturer, and the individual programs already offered by Beechcraft and P&WC to provide a “one-stop shop for a large customer,” Tannahill says.
Beechcraft will provide all aircraft maintenance, scheduled and unscheduled line maintenance, labor and parts, interior refurbishment, propeller overhauls, landing gear overhauls and all time change items, says Roger Smeltzer, Vice President, Customer Fleet Program. The addition of P&WC’s engine package represents “a new way of doing business in our industry and gives Wheels Up one contact. They don’t have to work through a third party.” Denis Parisien, Vice President, General Aviation for P&WC, says the engine support element will be based on the company’s Eagle Service Plan (ESP) Gold Program covering basic and unscheduled engine overhaul, all line maintenance and rental engine coverage if required. “It also includes the aircraft data acquisition system [ADAS] box that takes vital parameters every time the aircraft lands and automatically transmits it to our CAMP [Computerized Aircraft Maintenance Program] system.”
The Wheels Up deal comes as P&WC continues to expand enrollment of engines in pay-per-hour services for fleet operators and business and general aviation users, all of which also have access to trend-monitoring services provided through P&WC’s teaming arrangement with New York-based CAMP. P&WC plans to take greater advantage of diagnostic tools and engine health monitoring by gradually introducing the concept throughout its power range. Around 4,200 engines are now covered by the ESP program and 2,700 by the on-condition fleet-maintenance program. The ADAS system, developed with Altair Avionics for engines such as the PT6 that will power the Wheels Up fleet, is also augmented by an additional data-monitoring system for other engines called FAST (Flight Data Acquisition Storage and Transmission System), which can measure the entire mission.
The support deal for Wheels Up marks a new level of collaboration in the already close working relationship between Beechcraft and P&WC. Earlier this year P&WC delivered its 80,000th engine, a PT6A-60A, to power a King Air 350i. The delivery came 50 years after the first PT6A was delivered for the initial King Air. Beechcraft, meanwhile, marked the delivery of the 7,000th King Air in 2012.