Beechcraft made history Thursday as it secured the largest general aviation propeller aircraft order in history.
The order is worth more than $1 billion. Beechcraft will build up to a total of 105 King Air 350i aircraft for a company called Wheels Up.
Click here for photos of the King Air 350i
"Wheels Up is a membership-based private aviation program that eliminates fixed costs and provides unparalleled flexibility established by Kenny Dichter and the team that founded Marquis Jet, which redefined private air travel with the first 25-hour fractional jet card program. Beechcraft has been named the aircraft and comprehensive maintenance provider for Wheels Up in North America and Western Europe, with the entire value of the deal totaling up to $1.4 billon," Beechcraft said in a press release.
There will be nine deliveries in 2013, and 26 more by mid-2015. The deal includes options for 70 additional aircraft as Wheels Up expands nationally over the next two to three years.
"The Beechcraft King Air 350i is the perfect aircraft for Wheels Up due to its proven track record of tremendous flexibility and efficiency for regional travel. The pairing of the 350i and support from our world-class maintenance organization with the innovative founders and management team of Wheels Up is a winning combination," said Bill Boisture, Beechcraft chief executive officer.
"We are excited to offer the King Air 350i for the first time on an exclusive basis in a national fleet format as Wheels Up redefines private aviation's entry point," said Kenny Dichter, Wheels Up founder and chief executive officer.
According to a press release, the Wheels Up King Air 350i aircraft will have several special enhancements for Wheels Up members, including state-of-the-art interiors, Wi-Fi connectivity and a luxury lavatory vanity. The Wheels Up deal also includes a comprehensive maintenance program from Beechcraft valued at more than $600 million. This includes service for airframe, engines, avionics and propellers; scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, labor, parts and consumables. From its Hawker Beechcraft Services Wilmington, Del., hub, which is strategically located for this program, the maintenance program will also include mobile AOG support.
Boisture said the record contract doesn't necessarily mean more jobs.
"I think it’s a question of stability and sustaining," he told Eyewitness News. "We've been very clear since bankruptcy that we set a production rate for the company and that we’re matching it by going in and aggressively selling, and creating a demand for what we are producing. This is creating a demand for what we are producing. So I think it’s much more a question, at least in this economy, of providing stability for the jobs that we have."
He said if the economy turns around in the next three to five years there's a possibility that they would see a need to "ramp up our manpower."
Beechcraft gets a $1.4 billion plane order