New statistics released by Beechcraft at the Dubai Air Show reveal that the company has seen a three-fold increase in sales of special-mission aircraft to the Middle East in the last 10 years.
Between 2003 and 2012, the company delivered 54 special-mission aircraft to the region. In the preceding 10 years (1993-2002) the total was 13. This represents a 315% increase.
The majority of the 54 aircraft (23 airframes) were configured as utility transports, and seven each were delivered as air ambulances and for weather modification. The second most popular fit, though, was for aerial surveillance work - 16 surveillance aircraft were supplied.
“The most popular platform for special missions in the Middle East is the King
Air 350ER, due to its range and payload capabilities,” said Dan Keady, the company’s senior vice president for special mission aircraft, in a statement. “Furthermore, its ability to land on unimproved runways - which are present at as many as 60 percent of the Middle Eastern airports - coupled with its lower operating costs for intra-regional missions make it a better option than an equivalent-sized jet in many cases.”
The company did not release a breakdown of customers for the aircraft, but has previously confirmed a sale of five King Air 350ERs to the Iraqi Air Force. And at least two King Air 350s have been delivered to the Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force in the past fortnight: the aircraft were spotted while transiting the UK during their delivery flights.