Restoration Of First King Air Underway
At 40 years old, she
honestly needed a little work. But then, she's been busy. Exactly
40 years after she was created, the very first King Air off the
Beechcraft assembly line in Wichita (KS) is about to be in the
spotlight again. So she's getting a make-over, a fresh face and
avionics to die for.
The Wichita Eagle reports the first-ever King Air is
being restored and will make a round-the-world flight early next
year. The King Air rolled off the assembly line October 30th, 1963.
It was certified and went into service in January, 1964 as Olive
Ann Beech's personal transport. "That plane changed the face of
aviation," said Alex Major, an entrepreneur who plans to spend the
next year overseeing the restoration and flight of the first King
Air, which rolled off the Beech production line on Oct. 30,
"It's probably the most important plane in the history of the
company," said entrepreneur John Major, who's overseeing the King
Air's restoration. "This airplane made that company what it is
As testimony to that last statement, the King Air is still in
production 40 years later. Sure, things have changed, but the twin
turboprop is, at its heart, just what it used to be. "It's
considered the SUV of the sky in that it's rugged, it's extremely
reliable, it can fly into unimproved air fields, it's highly
dependable," said Raytheon spokesman Tim Travis. "You can fill it
full of gas, full of people and full of luggage and know you can
complete your mission.... It's just been a workhorse since it was
It was never an economy
model. When it was introduced, the King Air cost about $300,000.
Now, a top-of-the-line King Air now costs a whopping $5.8 million.
The first King Air featured a baby-blue interior (decorated and
signed by Ms. Beech herself). It's current owners, Major and New
York doctor Fred Pasternack, bought it in 1985. It's now been moved
from its hangar in Salina (KS) to a site in Mississippi, where it's
now undergoing extensive renovation and updating. That process is
expected to last about six months. Afterward, Major and Pasternack
will take it on a 30,000 mile round-the-world tour before they hope
to donate the King Air to the Smithsonian.
It's slated to be a celebrity-driven event. Broken into 30
segments of 1,000 miles each, Major and Pasternack hope to have
well-known names in the left seat for each part of the trip.
Already, actor Morgan Freeman has signed on. The owners hope that
other high profile pilots will join in as the trip gets closer.
They might include well-known aviation enthusiasts John Travolta
and Harrison Ford, Tom Cruise and Kurt Russell.