In this month’s Aircraft Comparative Analysis, Mike Chase provides information on two popular turboprops for the purpose of valuing the King Air 350i and 350iER.
Over the following paragraphs, we’ll consider productivity parameters (payload/range, speed and cabin size) and cover current market values for King Air 350i/350iER. The field in this comparative study includes the Piaggio Avanti II.
The King Air family is part of a line of twin-engine turboprop aircraft produced by the Beech Aircraft Corporation (now part of Textron Aviation). Launched in 1964 with the introduction of the Model 90, variants of the King Air have resulted in the longest production run of any civilian turboprop in its class. It has outlasted all of previous competitors, and the only other aircraft currently being built in its market is Piaggio’s Avanti.
The King Air 350 is essentially a model 300 with a 34-inch fuselage stretch, two additional cabin windows on each side, 41-inch wing span increase, drag-reducing winglets (giving extra range) and 1,000 lbs. additional MGTOW. The first King Air 350 deliveries occurred in 1990 as the ‘Super’ King Air 350. The King Air 350 was built until 2009.
The model 350i, built in 2010, is a derivation of the model 350 featuring a "FlexCabin" configuration that can be swapped easily for a variety of missions. The 350i also boasts a quieter cabin with sound levels reduced to an average of 78dBA.
The current production models are the King Air 350i, King Air 350iER and King Air 350ER, all of which are adept at accommodating passengers, cargo, air ambulance or other special missions.
There are 324 wholly-owned King Air 350i and 350iER aircraft in operation worldwide. By continent, North America is home to the largest fleet percentage (65%) followed by Asia (17%), accounting for a combined 82% of the fleet. Almost 20% of the King Air 350i/350iER in-operation fleet is leased, according to JETNET statistics.
Payload & Range
The data contained in Table A are sourced from Conklin & de Decker and the May 2017 issue of B/CA. As we have mentioned in past articles, a potential operator should focus on payload capability as a key factor. The King Air 350i ‘Available Payload with Maximum Fuel’ at 1,489 lbs is considerably greater than the Avanti II at 848 lbs of payload capability and the King Air 350iER at 823 lbs.
In addition, the fuel usage by each aircraft in this field of study is depicted. The King Air 350i and 350iER burn more fuel per hour at 122 and 124 Gallons Per Hour (GPH), respectively, compared to 104 GPH for the Avanti II (per Aircraft Cost Calculator). That’s 17% and 19% more gallons per hour, respectively.
According to Conklin & de Decker, the King Air 350i cabin volume is 344 cu. ft. and its cabin length is 19.5ft. The Avanti II has the greater cabin volume (393 cu. ft.) but is shorter in length at 17.5ft. Chart A (courtesy of UPCAST JETBOOK) shows the side-by-side comparisons.
As depicted by Chart B and using Wichita, Kansas as the origin point, the King Air 350i and the King Air 350iER show considerably more range coverage than the Avanti II, per Aircraft Cost Calculator (ACC) data.
Note: For jets and turboprops, ‘Seats-Full Range’ represents the maximum IFR range of the aircraft at Long-Range Cruise with all passenger seats occupied. ACC assumes NBAA IFR fuel reserve calculation for a 200nm alternate. The lines depicted do not include winds aloft or any other weather-related obstacles.
The King Air 350 aircraft utilizes two P&WC PT6A-60A engines rated at 1,050 SHP. By comparison, the Avanti II has two P&WC PT6A-66B engines rated at 850 SHP.
Cost Per Mile
Using data published in the May 2017 B&CA Planning and Purchasing Handbook and the August 2016 B&CA Operations Planning Guide, we will compare our aircraft. The nationwide average Jet-A fuel cost used from the August 2016 edition was $4.90 per gallon at press time, so for the sake of comparison we’ll chart the numbers as published.
Note: Fuel price used from this source does not represent an average price for the year.
Chart C details ‘Cost per Mile’ and compares the King Air 350i and 350iER to their competition, factoring direct costs and with each aircraft flying a 1,000nm mission with a 800 lbs (four passenger) payload. The King Air 350iER and 350i show higher costs per nautical mile at $2.69 and $2.58 respectively, compared to $2.42 cost per mile for the Avanti II (a difference of 11.2% and 6.6% cost per nautical mile in favor of the Avanti II).
Total Variable Cost
The ‘Total Variable Cost’ illustrated in Chart D is defined as the Cost of Fuel Expense, Maintenance Labor Expense, Scheduled Parts Expense and Miscellaneous Trip Expense. The Total Variable Cost for the King Air 350i and 350iER computes at $830 per hour, which is 15% less than the Avanti II at $977 per hour.
Aircraft Comparison Table
Table B contains the new prices from the May 2014 B&CA magazine for each aircraft. The average speed, cabin volume and maximum payload values are from Conklin & de Decker and Aircraft Cost Calculator, while the number of aircraft in-operation and percentage ‘For Sale’ are as reported by JETNET.
The King Air 350i has 4% of its fleet currently ‘For Sale’ and the Avanti II has 12.7% ‘For Sale’. Also, the average number of new deliveries and used transactions (sold) per month for the King Air 350i is eight per month, versus one per month for the Avaniti II. Corresponding data are not available for the 350iER.
Aircraft that are owned and operated by businesses are often depreciable for income tax purposes under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS). Under MACRS, taxpayers are allowed to accelerate the depreciation of assets by taking a greater percentage of the deductions during the first few years of the applicable recovery period (see Table C).
In certain cases, aircraft may not qualify under the MACRS system and must be depreciated under the less favorable Alternative Depreciation System (ADS) where depreciation is based on a straight-line method, meaning that equal deductions are taken during each year of the applicable recovery period. In most cases, recovery periods under ADS are longer than recovery periods available under MACRS.
There are a variety of factors that taxpayers must consider in determining if an aircraft may be depreciated, and if so, the correct depreciation method and recovery period that should be utilized. For example, aircraft used in charter service (i.e. Part 135) are normally depreciated under MACRS over a seven-year recovery period or under ADS using a twelve-year recovery period.
Aircraft used for qualified business purposes, such as Part 91 business use flights, are generally depreciated under MACRS over a period of five years or by using ADS with a six-year recovery period. There are certain uses of the aircraft, such as non-business flights, that may have an impact on the allowable depreciation deduction available in a given year.
Table D depicts an example of using the MACRS schedule for a 2014-model King Air 350i aircraft in private (Part 91) and charter (Part 135) operations over five- and seven-year periods, assuming a 2014 New value of $7.4m, per B&CA.
Asking Prices & Quantity
The current used jet market for the King Air 350i shows a total of 13 aircraft ‘For Sale’ with seven displaying an asking price ranging from $3.7m to $5.9m. While each serial number is unique, the Airframe (AFTT) hours and age/condition will cause great variations in price.
Of course, the final negotiated price remains to be decided between the seller and buyer before the sale of an aircraft is completed.
The points in Chart E are centered on the same aircraft. Pricing used in the vertical axis is as published in the Vref Pricing Guide. The productivity index requires further discussion in that the factors used can be somewhat arbitrary. Productivity can be defined (and it is here) as the multiple of three factors:
Others may choose different parameters, but serious business aircraft buyers are usually impressed with Price, Range, Speed and Cabin Size. After consideration of the Price, Range, Speed and Cabin Size, we can conclude that King Air 350i and 350iER display a high level of productivity.
Popular attributes of the King Air 350i and 350iER are the lower variable costs and longer range compared to the Avanti II but at a higher initial acquisition price. The Avanti II has more cabin volume, greater available payload with maximum fuel than the King Air 350iER, but less than the 350i, lower fuel burn and a lower acquisition price. Operators should weigh their mission requirements precisely when picking the best option for them within this category.
Within the preceding paragraphs we have touched upon several of the attributes that business aircraft operators value. There are other qualities such as airport performance, terminal area performance, and time to climb that might factor in a buying decision, however.
The King Air 350i and 350iER continue to be very popular today. Those operators in the market should find the preceding comparison useful. Our expectations are that the King Air 350i and 350iER will continue to do well in the used markets for the foreseeable future.