The King Air is one of the most iconic, useful and well-engineered airplanes in aviation history. Not only do they earn rave views from those who pilot them regularly, but the proven history and sheer volume of King Airs manufactured in the last 50-plus years is a testament to the brilliance of the original design.
But also unique and advantageous with the King Air series is the number of creative outside companies that have capitalized on opportunities to improve aspects of the world’s most popular turboprop to suit different needs. I recently visited one such company in Waco, Texas named CenTex Aerospace. The core of their focus: carrying capability.
The King Air 200/250 series was specifically built to nestle right up to the 12,500-pound limitation for an airframe flown by a pilot without a type rating. With a max gross weight (MGW) of 12,499 pounds, the early King Air 200s can carry a lot yet still be flown by a pilot who did not want to go through the gauntlet of obtaining a type rating.
But, as the years have progressed, the King Air 200/250 series have gained weight. As airplanes often do, they get heavier as the years of manufacturing progress, causing the useful load (UL) to decrease. So, a King Air 200 from the late 1970s will likely have a greater UL as compared to a recent model, mainly because of improvements to the design. While the improvements are certainly beneficial, they can be heavy while the MGW ceiling of 12,500 lbs remains the same.
This often leads to two options for the buyer in the market for a King Air 200/250 series. Buy an older King Air 200 with a higher UL and a lesser price point – but with fewer upgrades, higher airframe time, smaller engines and higher maintenance costs. Or purchase a newer King Air 250 with a gob of cool upgrades and a higher price point – but carry much less fuel, people and bags. There is little middle ground.
Enter CenTex Aerospace with the Halo Series of gross weight increase kits.
CenTex Aerospace is nestled in a cool WWII-era wooden hangar at the Waco Regional Airport (KACT). During my visit, I learned a lot about their operation, specifically how they increased the MGW of the King Air 200 by an incredible 1,500 lbs. That’s a huge jump in capability whether a King Air operator needs to handle larger passenger/bag loads (and still carry tons of fuel), or requires space for heavy special mission equipment.
So, how did CenTex Aerospace achieve the gross weight increase? They determined the steps required to change the airworthiness certification from the Standard Category to the Commuter Category. The switch requires specific modifications but allows the airplane to operate at a heavier MGW.
Adjustments are managed by the CenTex dealer network and include: cockpit/panel upgrades to the pitch trim and stall warning systems; improved interior lighting; an airspeed overspeed warning system; interior signage; a new POH (with some improved performance considerations); an engine fire-warning system; improvements to the stall warning system. There are no new structural components added to the airframe – only items that allow the airplane to meet Commuter Category requirements.
Beechcraft has a reputation for being rugged and “overbuilt,” and the lack of structural modifications required to carry the extra 1,500 lbs is a testament to the fact that the original Beechcraft
designers created a real workhorse. While the Halo STC is much more than a paperwork shuffle, with the airframe modifications being true upgrades to safety and performance, the basic structure of the King Air fleet is robust and strong, not requiring any additional aluminum.
Along with the increased max gross weight, CenTex Aerospace figured out how to increase the fuel capacity and storage capacity. If desired, Saddle Tanks can be added behind each engine in a nacelle add-on manufactured by the company. Saddle Tanks can either add 95 gallons of fuel per side (with no storage increase) or add up to 60 gallons per side of additional fuel and have a large lockable storage compartment in each nacelle. The options are abundant, allowing the owner to add more fuel, more storage or both.
Since the CenTex-modified King Air 200/250 series has a MGW of 14,000 lbs, a type rating is required of the pilot. But several facilities provide the training, which is comparable to the insurance-approved training necessary to operate any King Air – but ends with the awarding of a King Air 200 type rating.
Is the Centex Aerospace Halo Gross Weight Increase (GWI) STC right for you? It is a winner for the operator who is satisfied with their particular airframe but seeks more range, payload capability and associated operational safety. And for operators of the King Air 300/350 series, the Halo 350 GWI STC is also available. It improves the MGW by more than 1,000 lbs, making the flagship of the King Air fleet even more capable.