Twin Commander vs. King Air: Which Turboprop Should You Choose?

Twin Commander vs. King Air

If you’re in the market for an airplane, you have a lot of options to choose from. The first question you should ask yourself is: Turboprop or jet engine? In general, the overall cost of a turboprop aircraft is lower than a jet when it comes to chartering or owning. And, with less moving parts in a turboprop engine, they make for a more reliable and maintenance-friendly aircraft. Not to mention, turboprops burn less fuel per hour than jets, making operating costs lower.

Don’t get us wrong, jets are wonderful and they are great options for those wanting to cruise at higher altitudes, achieve longer range, and leverage the supreme speed of a jet. But particularly for those starting out in their owner-operator journey, a turboprop is a reliable place to begin.

But once you’ve decided on a turboprop, the question then becomes: Which turboprop airplane is the best? We’re doing a comparison of two of our favorite aircraft types: Twin Commander and King Air. Model specifics will vary, and you should certainly consider the maintenance history and engine health of the specific airplane you’re looking to buy, but these comparisons are a great place to begin.

Overview of the Twin Commander

Gulfstream Aerospace halted production on the Twin Commander series in 1984, so you won’t find any new models of this turboprop aircraft on the market today. Nevertheless, Twin Commanders are known for its segment leading fuel efficiency, large cabin, and long range capabilities. Since production began on Twin Commanders in the 1950s, there have been numerous model variants, each representing a new evolution of performance, capability enhancements, added features, and design upgrades. 

Over 1,000 Twin Commanders are still flying today, despite the halt in production. And there’s a good reason for that. Twin Commanders that have been well maintained with a quality exterior and interior paint job and solid avionics package will stand the test of time. Not to mention, Twin Commander has done a great job of keeping parts inventory and availability for the models still out in the market today.

 

ModelPropellersPowerNormal RangeTASOccupancy
Twin Commander Series 900Dowty Rotol, 3 bladed, full feathering and reversibleHoneywell TPE-331-5-254 K single shaft turboprop with integral gearbox, two-stage centrifugal compressor, three-stage axial turbine, and single annular combustion chamber875 nm333mph/286ktsCrew: 2

Passengers: 5

Twin Commander Series 980(2) Dowty Rotol, 3 bladed, full feathering and reversibleHoneywell TPE-331-10-511K single shaft turboprop with integral gearbox, two-stage centrifugal compressor, three-stage axial turbine, and single annular combustion chamber735 nm363mph/315ktsCrew: 2

Passengers: 5

Twin Commander Series 1000Dowty Rotol, 3 bladed, full feathering and reversibleHoneywell TPE-331-10-511K single shaft turboprop with integral gearbox, two-stage centrifugal compressor, three-stage axial turbine, and single annular combustion chamber1210 nm345mph/308ktsCrew: 2

Passengers: 5

Note: Specifications are based on direct-from-production models. The specific aircraft you’re looking at may have had engine replacements or other maintenance that could impact the information listed above. As always, it’s important to understand your specific aircraft before making a purchase.

Overview of the King Air

Beechcraft produces King Air, which is a line of twin-turboprop models. That line has been divided into two families. The Model 90 and 100 series, which were developed in the 1960s, are known as King Airs. The later T-tail Model 200 and 300 series were originally marketed as Super King Airs, but the “Super” was later dropped by Beechcraft in 1996. While the name was dropped, it’s still often used to differentiate the 200 and 300 series King Airs from their smaller or earlier iterations. This may be a helpful clue when you’re researching King Airs to purchase—if you see it referred to as a “Super King Air” you’ll know it’s a later or larger model.

The King Air was the first aircraft in its class and has been produced continuously from 1964 to today. For the sake of equal comparisons, we’re evaluating 1970s-1980s model King Airs only.

 

ModelPropellersPowerNormal RangeTASOccupancy
“Super” King Air B2003-bladed McCauley (2) Pratt & Whitney PT6A-42920 nm326mph/283ktsCrew: 2

Passengers: 6

“Super” King Air 300Hartzell 4-blade aluminum propellers(2) Pratt & Whitney PT6A-60A1480 nm360mph/312ktsCrew: 2

Passengers: 6

King Air 350Hartzell 4-blade aluminum propellers(2) Pratt & Whitney PT6A-60A1440 nm357mph/310ktsCrew: 2

Passengers: 9-11

Note: Specifications are based on direct-from-production models. The specific aircraft you’re looking at may have had engine replacements or other maintenance that could impact the information listed above. As always, it’s important to understand your specific aircraft before making a purchase.

Which Turboprop Aircraft to Choose?

Twin Commanders that have been well maintained will typically cost around $1 million or less to purchase. Because it’s an older aircraft, acquisitions costs for a Twin Commander will be less than King Air. And, because King Airs are still in production today, King Airs will maintain their dollar-for-dollar value over time.

On the other hand, Twin Commander outperforms King Air in terms of speed and altitude because of its fantastic engine economy—it’s faster and more fuel efficient. 

Comparatively, the Twin Commander is a faster airplane than its King Air counterparts. Twin Commanders offer more cargo and carrying capabilities and the fuel savings alone out shadow what owner operators would see with a King Air. Despite that, King Air is hands down a more aesthetically-pleasing aircraft with more passenger amenities. So when choosing between a Twin Commander vs. a King Air, you’re really making a decision about form vs. function. If you’re looking for a utilitarian, fuel-efficient, and fast aircraft, choose a Twin Commander. If you’re looking for a sleek, quality aircraft that has a world of upgrade opportunities available, choose a King Air.

Either way, they are both exceptional airplanes that any owner would be proud to have.

If you’re in the market for a turboprop aircraft and have questions, or if you’re ready to get your new airplane on a maintenance schedule, contact us today. 

Recent Blogs

Youngstown - Warren Regional Airport Hangar #7 1453 Youngstown - Kingsville Rd. Vienna OH 44473

Hours: M-F 9:00am - 4:30pm

Sign up to our Newsletter and get the latest news about aviation and exciting promotions

Copyright © 2020 Winner-Aviation. All Rights Reserved

Scroll to Top