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Beech 99 Airliner

The Beech 99 is an evolution of the successful Queen Air/King Air series, and shares the King Air's basic powerplant and layout, but otherwise is a new design, with a significantly lengthened cabin with greater seating capacity. When scheduled air-taxi service first developed in the 1950's and early 1960's, the fleet consisted primarily of older twin-engined Beech 18s (first flown in 1937), along with a few light twins and a variety of smaller single-engined aircraft. The low initial costs of these general aviation aircraft was important to carriers who typically operated with marginal financing and were willing to forego expensive passenger amenities in order to hold down their operating costs. As the industry grew and customer expectations rose, the airlines began to operate commuter derivatives of more modern executive aircraft, such as the Piper Chieftain and Cessna 402.

The development of smaller turboprop engines, suitable for aircraft under 12,500 lb, led to the introduction of two extremely popular commuter aircraft, the 19-seat deHavilland of Canada Twin Otter in 1965 and the 15-seat Beech 99 in 1966 (heavier piston engines had limited earlier commuter payloads to about 10 passengers).

In 1964, Pratt & Whitney of Canada, an engine manufacturer with a history of successful aircraft engines, announced a new turboprop engine, the PT-6, which was highly suitable for aircraft in the 12,500-lb commuter category, A year earlier the Low-Cost Plane Design Committee of the Association of Local Transport Airlines (ALTA), the trade association of the local service airlines, had issued a report calling for a new aircraft designed specifically for low-density air service-a so-called "DC-3 replacement."

The availability of an appropriate engine, along with the impetus of the ALTA report, contributed to the development of two new twinturboprop airplanes in the 15- to 19-seat range that were well suited to commercial low-density markets: the Canadian DHC-6 Twin Otter, made available in 1966 and designed primarily as a general-purpose bush airplane; and the Beech 99, first produced in 1967 for the corporate and air-taxi market. By 1970, commuter operators had purchased 134 of these two aircraft, representing about 75 percent of the over-15-seat aircraft in the commuter fleet.

CAB originally restricted commuter airlines to aircraft smaller than 12,500 lb gross takeoff weight- about 19 passengers-for the express purpose of confining their operations to service that would not compete with the trunk and local service airlines. As the threat of such competition passed, this limitation was changed in 1973 from an aircraft size limitation to a maximum payload limitation - either 30 seats or 7,500 lb of cargo. At that time, however, permission to fly 30-passenger aircraft was less significant than it might appear. For one thing, there were no modern aircraft available in this size range that were specifically tailored to the economic and operational requirements of the commuter market. In addition, FAA operating regulations required the addition of a cabin attendant at 20 seats or more, which represented an economic barrier to seating capacities only slightly above this threshold. More importantly, however, few commuter markets in 1973 were large enough to support larger equipment, and internal disputes prevented the commuter airline industry from endorsing a new 30-seat aircraft. " U.S. manufacturers, lacking a firm commitment from the domestic market, decided not to develop any new commuter aircraft. As a result, the commuter airline fleet remains dominated by small aircraft-not a surprising circumstance, given the industry's regulatory history and the markets it currently serves.

A converted B99 fitted with P&WC PT6A34 engines served as the C99 prototype, and flew in this form for the first time on June 20 1980. Production aircraft featured PT6A36 engines, and deliveries recommenced following certification, both in July 1981. Shortly afterwards it became known as the C99 Airliner. C99 production ceased in 1986.



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