Your Captain Speaking
A question I’m often asked is “Why the Merlin and not the King Air B-200”? It’s a reasonable question and perhaps a good one to address in this month’s Volare.
For starters, it’s my view that airplanes need to look good, and the Merlin is a far sight better looking than a King Air, right? Ramp appeal, however, is just icing on the cake. The real reasons for choosing the Merlin over the King Air B-200 are that the Merlin is; bigger, faster, carries more further and burns 20-22% less fuel than a King Air B-200.
The Merlin is also built tough. As a comparative example, it has dual wing spars that stretch from wing tip to wing tip. Each spar has three spar webs and a five layer titanium spar cap. The King Air has only one wing spar that stretches from nacelle to nacelle, where the wings are then bolted on. In the history of the Merlin program there has never been an incident or accident attributable to structural failure – not the case in the King Air program.
The Honeywell TPE-331 engines that power the Merlin have an overhaul interval of 5,000 flight hours with a mid-term hot section inspection. The Pratt & Whitney PT-6 that powers the King Air B-200 has a 3,600 hour overhaul interval with a midterm hot section. TPE-331 hot section inspections and overhauls are less expensive than on the PT-6. Engine operating cost is, therefore, much lower on the Merlin than the King Air B-200.
TPE-3331 is a powerful, reliable, cost effective solution. Since Merlin One began operations in 2007 we have had only two premature engine events and one was due to a bird ingestion! This is outstanding reliability by any measure.
So if a Merlin is a superior aircraft why does it have a lower market value than a similarly equipped, similar vintage King Air B-200? The answer to this question is best expressed by the legendary designer of the Merlin, Ed Swearingen.
When confronted by a less than happy group of mechanics at an early owner/operator conference Ed simply said “I didn’t design it to be easily maintained, I designed it to go fast.” Frankly, that statement sums up the Merlin. To an inexperienced operator it can be, as we say in the trade, “a high maintenance bird”. If, however, one has the technical expertise, parts, specialized tooling and access to the Merlin infrastructure present in and around San Antonio, where the airplane was designed and built, it’s a dream machine that allows Merlin One to maintain its market position as the lowest cost provider of private aircraft transportation in Texas.
Happy Holidays from all of us at Merlin One.