- 01 Apr 2021
- Mike Chase
- Turboprop Comparisons
How do the King Air 260 and the King Air 360 compare in the twin-engine turboprop market? What are the advantages offered by each model, and to whom would they appeal? Mike Chase explores...Back to Articles
Over the following paragraphs we’ll consider some of the key productivity parameters for the Beechcraft King Air 260 and the King Air 360, comparing their payload, range, speed, and cabin size. The aim is to establish which aircraft provides the better value in the twin-engine turboprop market, and to whom.
For example, how might the desire for higher speed, longer range, or lower operating costs influence a buying decision? At what stage does the mission need necessitate spending an additional $1.475m for a larger aircraft? It’s hoped that the following comparison will help clarify.
Beechcraft King Air 260
The Beechcraft King Air 260 debuted in December 2021 and offers an entirely redesigned cabin from the King Air 250 it replaced.
It reduced pilot workload through digital pressurization and the advanced IS&S ThrustSense autothrottle system. This integrated system allows pilots to select an airspeed on the airplane’s Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics suite, after which ThrustSense automatically adjusts the power levers to satisfy the command – thus pilots fly the takeoff, climb, cruise, descent, and landing phases of flight with precise airspeeds without the need for manual input.
As of the end of May 2023, Beechcraft had delivered 56 King Air 260s, per JETNET data. South America was home to the largest fleet percentage (43%), followed North America (38%) and Europe (11%), accounting for a combined 92% of the world’s total fleet.
Beechcraft King Air 360
The Beechcraft King Air 360 was certified in October 2020 and provided updates to the airframe, avionics, and interior of the King Air 350ER. As with the King Air 260, upgrades included an enhanced digital pressurization system and the IS&S ThrustSense autothrottle.
The onboard maintenance system was also updated, and six new interior schemes featuring contemporary design cues found in luxury SUVs were made available on the King air 360.
At the time of writing there were 75 wholly-owned King Air 360s around the world, and one under shared ownership according to JETNET. Of the 76 jets in operation worldwide, North America accounted for 66%, followed by Asia (15%) and South America (12%), accounting for a combined 93% of the total fleet.
When comparing turboprops, an important area for potential operators to focus on is payload capability, especially the ‘Available Payload with Maximum Fuel’. Table A shows the King Air 260 has an ‘Available Payload with Maximum Fuel’ of 115lbs, which is considerably less than the 1,534lbs offered by the King Air 360.
Table A: Beechcraft King Air 260 vs Beechcraft King Air 360 Payload Comparison
Cabin Cross-Section Comparison
Chart A shows the cabin width and height of the Beechcraft King Air 260 and King Air 360 are the same, at 4.5ft. and 4.8ft. However, the King Air 360 (19.6ft. vs 16.8ft.) offers more cabin length than the King Air 260.
One of the main selling points of the King Air 360 is its cabin volume, and in this comparison the 344cu.ft offered by the King Air 360 is more than the 303cu.ft. provided by the King Air 260 – enough room for an additional passenger seat. Both models provide 55cu.ft. of internal baggage volume.
Chart A: Beechcraft King Air 260 vs Beechcraft King Air 360 Range Comparison
Using Wichita, Kansas as the starting point, Chart B compares the ranges of the two aircraft. The King Air 260 (1,038nm) offers less range than the King Air 360 (1,533nm), with each aircraft carrying available fuel with four passengers.
Note: ‘Full fuel with available payload range’ represents the maximum IFR ranges of the aircraft at Long Range Cruise with NBAA IFR alternate fuel reserve calculation for a 100nm alternate. This does not include winds aloft, or any other weather-related obstacles.
Chart B: Beechcraft King Air 260 vs Beechcraft King Air 360 Range Comparison
Both aircraft in this field of comparison utilize a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada powerplants. The King Air 260 uses two PT6A-52 engines providing 850shp each of output and burning 92 gallons of fuel/hour (GPH). The King Air 360, meanwhile, utilizes two PT6A-60A engines which provide 1,050shp of output each, burning a similar 91 gallons of fuel/hour (GPH).
Cost per Mile Comparison
Chart C details ‘Cost per Mile’, factoring direct costs with each aircraft flying a 1,000nm mission with available payload. The Beechcraft King Air 260 ($3.88) costs 1% more than the King Air 360 ($3.84).
Chart C: Beechcraft King Air 260 vs Beechcraft King Air 360 Cost Per Mile Comparison
Variable Cost Comparison
The variable (hourly) cost illustrated in Chart D is defined as the estimated cost of fuel, maintenance labor, scheduled parts, and miscellaneous trip expenses (hangar, crew, and catering).
These costs DO NOT represent a direct source into every flight department and their trip support expenses. For comparative purposes, the costs presented are the relative differences, not the actual differences since these may vary from one flight department to another.
As depicted, the King Air 260 ($896) shows a slightly higher variable hourly cost than the King Air 360 ($887).
Chart D: Beechcraft King Air 260 vs Beechcraft King Air 360 Variable Cost Comparison
Table B contains the 2023 model prices of our comparative field, per B&CA. At $7.780m, the Beechcraft King Air 260 costs $1.475m less than the King Air 360 ($9.255m).
The long-range cruise speed and range numbers listed are also from B&CA, while the cabin volumes, number of aircraft in-operation, the fleet percentage for sale, and average sold per month are from JETNET.
At the time of writing the King Air 260 had 1.8% (one aircraft) of its fleet ‘for sale’ on the pre-owned aircraft market while the King Air 360 had 4% (three aircraft) ‘for sale’. The average number of new and used transactions (units sold) per month over the preceding 12 months was 3.2 for the King Air 260 and 2.7 for the King Air 360.
Table B: Beechcraft King Air 260 vs Beechcraft King Air 360 Market Comparison
Asking Prices & Quantity
As mentioned, at the time of writing, one King Air 260 was listed on the pre-owned market, with a sale pending. By comparison, there were three pre-owned King Air 360s listed. Two invited offers and the third has a sale pending.
While each aircraft serial number is unique, the Airframe Total Time (AFTT) and age/condition will cause great variation in the price of a specific aircraft – even between two aircraft from the same year of manufacture.
The final negotiated price must ultimately be decided between the seller and buyer before the sale of an aircraft is completed.
Representative MACRS Depreciation Schedules
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 can use accelerated depreciation of assets by taking a greater percentage of the deductions during the first few years of the applicable recovery period.
In certain cases, aircraft may not qualify under the MACRS system and must be depreciated under the less favorable Alternative Depreciation System (ADS), 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 is 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 (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 seven-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 any given year.
The US enacted the 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act into law on December 22, 2017. Under the Act, taxpayers may be able to deduct up to 100% of the cost of a new or pre-owned aircraft purchased after September 27, 2017 and placed in service before January 1, 2023. This 100% expensing provision is a huge bonus for aircraft owners and operators.
As of January 1, 2023, that deduction was reduced to 80% and reduced each year by 20% to depreciate qualified business aircraft until December 31, 2026.
Nevertheless, ‘Transportation Property’ described in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) §168(k)(2)(B) and ‘Certain Aircraft’ described in IRC §168(k)(2)(C) will have a one-year delay in the phasedown. Thus, such property may still be eligible for 100% bonus depreciation if placed into service in 2023.
Table C depicts an example of using the MACRS schedule for a 2023-model King Air 260 in private (Part 91) and charter (Part 135) operations over five- and seven-year periods. The price is as published in the June 2023 B&CA magazine. Meanwhile, Table D depicts an example of using the MACRS schedule for a 2023-edition King Air 360 in private (Part 91) and charter (Part 135) operations over five- and seven-year periods. The price is as published in the June 2023 B&CA magazine.
Table C and D: Beechcraft King Air 260 vs Beechcraft King Air 360 MACRS Depreciation
The points in Chart E are centered on the same aircraft. Pricing used in the horizontal axis is as published in the June 2023 B&CA edition. 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:
1. Full Fuel with available payload Range (nm).
2. The long-range cruise speed flown to achieve that range.
3. The cabin volume available for passengers and amenities.
Chart E: Beechcraft King Air 260 vs Beechcraft King Air 360 Productivity Comparison
Others may choose different parameters, but serious business aircraft buyers are usually impressed with price, range, speed, and cabin size.
The Beechcraft King Air 360 costs more to buy than the King Air 260 but costs roughly the same to operate. The purpose of this analysis is to review what the performance parameters are that might cause a brand-loyal King Air operator to step-up to a more capable aircraft.
From our analysis, operators regularly traveling 1,000nm and below with a four-passenger payload are likely to find the King Air 260 more attractive, while those who frequently travel more than 1,000nm will be assessing the viability of the King Air 360.
But it is not a foregone conclusion. The King Air 260 covers that first 1,000nm quicker than the King Air 360 with a faster long range cruise speed (256kts vs 235kts). Meanwhile, the vastly superior ‘Available Payload with Maximum Fuel’ of the King Air 360 could sway some buyers whose mission need the King Air 260 would otherwise fit.
Ultimately, it will be a combination of several of the factors covered, plus others (such as airport performance, terminal area performance, and time-to-climb) that will inform individual operators of the right aircraft for them.
There is plenty for a prospective buyer to consider when deciding which performance criteria is right. Both turboprops offer great value in the twin-engine turboprop market today, serving their respective markets well.
Read more Turboprop Comparisons
Read our Turboprop Price Guides