March 2003 saw the retirement of the Jetstream from RAF service and these were replaced by the Beech 200 King Air in the multi-engine training role at RAF Cranwell. The Beech King Air B200, is a twin-engine turboprop monoplane, which first entered RAF service in 2004. It is used as an advanced, multi-engine pilot trainer by No 45(R) Squadron, which is part of No 3 Flying Training School based at RAF Cranwell, in Lincolnshire.
Prior to flying the King Air, students who have been streamed to fly multi-engine aircraft at the end of elementary flying training undertake survival training and personal development training to prepare them for the rigours of operational service. They then join No 45(R) Squadron, and receive an additional 30 hours training on the multi-engine lead-in (MELIN) course, flying Firefly 260 aircraft. During the MELIN course, students are taught crew co-operation and procedural flying skills to prepare them for their advanced flying training on the King Air.
The King Air course is split into basic and advanced phases. In the basic phase, students learn essential multi-engine techniques such as general handling, asymmetric flying, emergency handling and radio-aids navigation, and consolidate the multi-crew skills acquired on the MELIN. In the advanced phase, the emphasis shifts towards developing captaincy, crew resource management, and managing the King Air's advanced avionics systems. Students learn advanced skills such as formation flying, low-level flying and airways navigation, and are expected to plan and manage composite missions involving several aircraft.
On completion of the course students are awarded their coveted pilot’s wings, and then undertake conversion to their frontline aircraft type at an Operational Conversion Unit.
A variety of courses are available using the King Air, based mainly on the student’s previous flying experience. This experience can be as little as 100 hours for a student arriving straight from elementary flying training, to a few thousand hours for a qualified pilot transferring to the multi-engine role. In addition to its flying training role, the King Air can be used to carry up to 6 passengers or freight.
The King Air B200 has performed extremely well. Its combination of a well-proven airframe with advanced cockpit and systems make it an ideal training platform for the new generation of multi-engine aircraft entering RAF service.