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Beechcraft King Air

The Beechcraft King Air is a series of American utility aircraft produced by Beechcraft.

The King Air family includes several twin-turboprop models, categorised into two families.

The Model 90 and 100 series, developed in the 1960s, are known as King Airs.

The subsequent T-tail Model 200 and 300 series were initially marketed as Super King Airs until Beechcraft dropped the “Super” designation in 1996, although it is still commonly used to distinguish the 200 and 300 series King Airs from the smaller models.

Military King Air versions


The Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force (JMSDF) has been operating a fleet of 40 C90 and C90A King Airs since 1973.

These aircraft have been assigned various roles within the JMSDF, comprising 34 TC-90 trainers, five LC-90 transports, and one UC-90 configured for photographic aerial surveys.

The TC-90s and UC-90 are managed by the 202nd Naval Air Training Squadron at Tokushima Air Base.

The LC-90s serve various Lockheed P-3 Kokutai (squadrons) and Air Transport Squadron 61 as liaison aircraft.

In 2005, the JMSDF celebrated 500,000 accident-free flying hours with the TC-90 trainer fleet.

Plans were made to lease at least five TC-90s to the Philippines for maritime patrols, with two aircraft being transferred at no cost in March 2017.

From November 2016 to November 2017, six Philippine Navy pilots received training to operate the aircraft at Tokushima Airport, along with maintenance staff.

United States

The U.S. military has utilised King Air 90s for various roles, mainly VIP and liaison transport, with designations such as VC-6A, T-44 Pegasus, and U-21 Ute.

The U-21 Ute was the most commonly used version by the US Army.

Most U-21s were unpressurized Model 87 derivatives, but there were also five U-21Fs based on the A100 King Air, and three U-21Js, designated Model A100-1 by Beechcraft, which were actually the first three production Model 200 Super King Airs.

The bulk of U-21s were delivered as U-21As, complemented by four RU-21As, three RU-21Bs, two RU-21Cs, 18 RU-21Ds, 16 RU-21Es, and 17 RU-21Gs.

The RU-21Es, except for one that was written off, were later converted to U-21Hs and RU-21Hs, with two U-21Hs and one RU-21H further converted to JU-21Hs.

In 1993, the remaining three RU-21As in military service were retired and sent to JW Duff Aircraft Salvage in Denver, Colorado.

On November 14, 2015, Dynamic Aviation donated one of these aircraft to the 138th Aviation Company Memorial for restoration and display at Orlando International Airport.

The majority of the U-21 series were retired in the late 1990s, and most are now owned by Dynamic Aviation in Bridgewater, Virginia.

Some have been modified for spraying and are used in insect control work.

The T-44A Pegasus, designated Model H90 by Beechcraft, is a trainer version used by the United States Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force to train pilots in flying multi-engine aircraft.

A total of 61 were delivered to the US Navy from 1977 to 1980.

In August 2006, the Navy announced a modernised avionics system upgrade for the T-44A fleet, after which they were redesignated T-44Cs.

The US military operated two VC-6A aircraft: one Model 65-A90 by the US Army with serial 66-15361, and another B90, designated VC-6A (66-7943), by the United States Air Force, used by President Johnson.

Air Force One

During President Lyndon Johnson’s tenure, the United States Air Force purchased a Model B90 King Air directly from the manufacturer.

Assigned the military designation VC-6A and bearing the serial number 66-7943, this aircraft was utilised to ferry President Johnson between Bergstrom Air Force Base (close to Austin, Texas) and his family’s ranch near Johnson City, Texas.

When President Johnson was on board, the aircraft was referred to by the call sign Air Force One.

Following Johnson’s presidency, the plane remained in service with the 89th Military Airlift Wing as a VIP transport until it was retired in 1985.

Military designations


Modifying the L-23 Seminole to incorporate PT6A-6 turboprop engines.

U-21A Ute

The Beechcraft Model 65-A90-1 is a utility aircraft for the US Army, featuring the fuselage of the Queen Air 65-80 and the wings of the King Air 65-90.

It is powered by 550 hp (410 kW) PT6A-20 engines.


At least five U-21As were converted into radio relay aircraft for deployment over Vietnam.

Subsequently, they were reconverted to the standard U-21A configuration.


Three U-21As were converted to include the Left Jab Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) system.

The system aircraft, designated as “Vanguard 216” (67-18065), was downed by a surface-to-air missile near the DMZ on March 4, 1971.

All five crew members were declared killed in action, with their bodies not recovered.

Subsequently, two of these aircraft were reconverted to the standard U-21A configuration.


The conversion of four U-21As to be equipped with Direction Finding equipment was part of the Cefirm Leader program, designed to operate alongside RU-21B and RU-21C aircraft.


Aircraft are intercepted as part of the Cefirm Leader program, powered by 620 hp (462 kW) PT6A-29 engines and equipped with a modified undercarriage.

The model in question is the Beechcraft Model 65-A90-2.


The Beechcraft Model 65-A90-3, similar to the RU-21B, is equipped with jamming apparatus as a component of the Cefirm Leader program.

Only two units were constructed.


The SIGINT aircraft system, referred to as “Laffing Eagle” or “V-Scan,” was deployed in Vietnam.

Post-war, many of these were transformed into Guardrail RU-21H models, while others were stripped of their electronic equipment to serve as U-21D utility aircraft.

The Beechcraft Model 65-A90-1 is one such example.


ELINT-equipped with Guardrail II, IIA, or IV systems, the Beechcraft Model 65-A90-5 is a variant in question.


The US Army utilises five King Air A100s as transport and utility aircraft.

U-21G Ute

The U-21A, featuring a modified cockpit, is primarily utilised as a utility aircraft, with 17 units having been converted for this purpose.


Three U-21G aircraft equipped with the Guardrail I Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) system.


Conversion of twenty-one RU-21D, E, and F aircraft for the Guardrail V ELINT system implementation, resulting in a higher gross weight.

U-21H Ute

The modification involved 23 RU-21E and G aircraft, which were previously used in the ELINT role and have since been replaced by newer models, to serve as utility aircraft.


Two RU-21Es were repurposed as test aircraft.


Two B90 King Airs equipped with 550 shp (410 kW) PT6A-20 engines were utilised for transportation.

The US Army employed one, and the other served as VIP transport for President Lyndon B. Johnson.

T-44A Pegasus

The Model H90 is designated as a multi-engine training aircraft for the U.S. Navy.

T-44C Pegasus

The T-44A has been upgraded with the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 series avionics suite.





13 Max


39 ft 11 in / 12.17 m


45 ft 11 in / 14.0 m


15 ft 5 in / 4.7 m


279.7 ft2 / 26.0 m2

Empty Weight

7,092 lb / 3,212 kg


11,800 lb / 5,352 kg


2xTPE-331-6-251B or -252


715 shp / 533 kW


4 Bladed

Cruise TAS

237 kn / 463 km/h


265 kn / 491 km/h

Stall IAS (flaps down)

78 kn / 145 km/h


1,325 nmi / 2,455 km

Fuel consumption

2.08 lb/nmi (0.51 g/m)


24,850 ft / 7,574 m

Climb rate

2,140 ft/min / 10.87 m/s

Wing loading

42.2 lb/ft2 / 205.84 kg/m2


0.121 hp/lb / 199.17 W/kg


Beech Aircraft and their Predecessors-Alain Pelletier.

National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Beechcraft Aircraft

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