Just under a score of years ago, Blackhawk Modifications was founded in Waco, Texas, to do what they do best in that state: make things bigger. Specifically, to beef up the power output of utility aircraft suffering from tired-engine syndrome. Today, they are celebrating the completion of the 800th upgrade and releasing details of a new project that will soon be enlarging on that number.

Cessna Caravans and Conquests; Piper Cheyennes; Beechcraft King Air 90, 200s and 300s – all have benefited from Blackhawk’s installation, under STC, of higher-rated Pratt & Whitney PT6A turboprops driving Hartzell, McCauley or MT propellers. According to type, operators have seen between 20- and 40-kt. increases in speed; rates of climb up to 60% greater; and higher cruising altitudes.

In the case of certain military operators flying heavily loaded King Air 350s in hot-and-high conditions, the boosted performance is a genuine lifesaver, allowing the aircraft to climb smartly after takeoff and not churn its way laboriously into the skies while disaffected locals use it for AK-47 target practice.

Next for the treatment is the King Air 300, a prototype of which is under test with XP67A engine versions (the P&WC PT6A-67A) and expecting its STC in the second quarter of next year. It also is confident of gaining the epithet of the fastest King Air, predicted cruising speed being 345 to 350 kt., while time to FL350 will be under 17 min. “From turboprop to rocket ship,” says Blackhawk president and CEO Jim Allmon.

Owners are offered a $50,000 discount for pre-certification orders, plus $70 per remaining hour on their existing PT6A-60A engines. Horsepower is not the name of Blackhawk’s game here, for the old and the new engines are both rated at 1,050 at sea level. The key factor is that the XP67A engine suffers less drop-off at higher-density altitudes, which is where the upgrade justifies itself.

King Air and Conquest operators are also offered the Phoenix treatment, which has already been taken up by six customers. In this, the engine upgrade is accompanied by new avionics, interior and paint scheme – a complete nose-to-tail refresh of your tired airplane.