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Beechcraft Starship: An Aircraft Ahead Of Its Time

April 01, 2021

The Beechcraft Starship was a technologically advanced executive transport aircraft that was designed to be lightweight and powerful, with the comfort of a larger jet. Read about this plane and about N515JS, one of just 53 Starships produced - then add a Beechcraft Starship PlaneTag to your collection.

 

What is the Beechcraft Starship?

Beech Starship PlaneTags

 

The Beech Starship is a twin-turboprop, pressurized, full composite business class aircraft that was produced between 1983 and 1995. It was designed by the legendary designer Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites as an intended successor to the Beechcraft King Air 200. It featured an innovative canard wing and turboprop pusher engine, first certified all glass cockpit, and a carbon fiber composite airframe (the first full composite business class aircraft certified by the FAA) that made the Starship strong, lightweight and extremely quiet. Only 53 were produced.

Photo by Bill Word

 

Development

The Starship’s beginnings came in 1979 as Beech began designing a new plane, a successor to its successful King Air line.

This new plane would be:

  • Faster
  • Larger
  • Quieter
  • Lighter
  • More stable
  • More efficient

 

Preliminary Design 330, or PD 330, was introduced in 1980, but it was not until 1982 that the legendary Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites came into the picture. Beech contracted with the company to design, build and test a proof of concept aircraft, which would provide the performance data required to proceed with production. Scaled Composites built a 85% scale POC plane within 9 months, and within 35 days had flown the first 100 flight test hours. It’s first flight was August 29, 1983, sans pressurization and certified avionics, and different airframe and materials than previously planned.

Three subsequent full-scale, airworthy prototypes came next to aerodynamics, avionics and systems, and powerplant and flight management testing. Development was still continuing, with delays in both construction due to the tooling needed for composite materials, and because of the initial underestimation of the complexity of using composite in production. Later delays came in developing the stall warning system and other technical difficulties.

Composite Construction

Composites such as carbon graphite, Kevlar and E-glass, were used, rather than metal, to construct a lighter, stronger aircraft with less long-term structural weaknesses than aluminum airframes. Other benefits of composite materials in aerospace construction include:

  • High impact resistance
  • High thermal stability
  • Higher strength at lower weight
  • Ability to construct complex designs
  • Less transmission of noise and vibration

The Starship was the first full composite business class aircraft to earn an FAA certification.

 

Starship Design Firsts

Beechcraft Starship PlaneTags

 

The Starship took its first flight on February 15, 1986. This visionary aircraft, with its canard design and turboprop pusher engine and other out-of-this-world features looked as if it was meant for space. Its cabin was quiet, because of the engines in the rear and composite construction. It was the first business class twin turboprop pusher to be certified by the FAA. The canard wing made it more difficult to stall. It was also the first certified all glass cockpit.

 

Beechcraft Starship 2000a Specs

Beechcraft Starship MotoArt

General characteristics

  •     Crew: 1 or 2
  •     Capacity: 6
  •     Length: 46 ft 1 in (14.05 m)
  •     Wingspan: 54 ft 5.70 in (16.6 m)
  •     Height: 12 ft 1.3 in (3.94 m)
  •     Wing area: 281 sq ft (26.1 m2)
  •     Empty weight: 10,085 lb (4,574 kg) standard empty weight
  •     Gross weight: 15,010 lb (6,808 kg) max ramp weight
  •     Max takeoff weight: 14,900 lb (6,759 kg)
  •     Fuel capacity: 565 gallons, or 3785 lbs.[45]
  •     Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67A turboprop, 1,200 shp (890 kW) each
  •     Propellers: 5-bladed McCauley, 8 ft 8 in (2.64 m) diameter

Performance

  •     Maximum speed: 385 mph (620 km/h, 335 kn)
  •     Cruise speed: 353 mph (568 km/h, 307 kn)
  •     Stall speed: 112 mph (180 km/h, 97 kn) max weight with flaps retracted & idle power
  •     Minimum control speed: 108 mph (174 km/h, 94 kn) flaps retracted[45]
  •     Range: 1,742 mi (2,804 km, 1,369 nmi)
  •     Service ceiling: 41,000 ft (12,500 m)
  •     Rate of climb: 2,748 ft/min (13.96 m/s)
  •     Wing loading: 53 lb/sq ft (260 kg/m2)
  •     Power/mass: 6.2 lb/shp

 

What happened to the Starship?

Even with its incredible advanced design and the many years that went into it, unfortunately the Starship was not a financial success. Between 1988 and 1995, only 53 Starships were built and only a few were sold. The selling price of $3.9 million was far more than other turbo-props at the time. With its new design being largely untested, along with the high price, it seemed that potential buyers were hesitant to be the first. It also happened to be introduced during an economic recession where even trusted executive aircraft were not selling, much less an unproven new star.

 

Starships

  Starship graveyard flickr photo by HawkeyeUK shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

 

Raytheon, the parent company of Beech, citing the $300 million already spent on the Starship, rather than weathering the economic downturn and finding new ways to promote the Starship’s many benefits, stopped producing them and leased the unsold planes. In 2003, due to high support costs, the company bought most of the fleet, donated some to museums, sold its inventory of parts to remaining owners, then scrapped the rest. Today, there are a few die hard owners, like Robert Scherer, who say they will never stop flying their Starships.

 

N515JS

N515JS PlaneTags

 

Our Starship is N515JS, construction number NC-52, was built in 1994 and certified airworthy on January 27, 1995. It was leased to Osborn Energy from 1997 to 2003, then recalled and stored at Pinal Park, Marana, AZ with the remaining fleet.

 

MotoArt’s Starship

Beechcraft Starship PlaneTags

 

MotoArt owner Dave Hall was thrilled to come across a Starship that had survived all of these years. Dusty, faded and in pieces, Hall still saw its beauty. “The Starship is such a cool plane,” says Hall. “Maybe it was just too far ahead of its time.”

composite PlaneTags

Hall and the team transported it back to MotoArt Studios in Torrance, CA to upcycle it into the newest PlaneTags. There they faced the challenge of working with the composite material.

Starship aviation collectible

 

Starship memorabilia

 

Starship aviation gift

 

Beech Starship

PlaneTags: Starship Collectibles

The Starship PlaneTags are numbered to 5000 and will be available in the following colors: White, Maroon, Teal and different combinations. The composite construction gives them a unique look not found on any other PlaneTags. They are also unique in that only the front is lasered; the backs will not be etched and customization will not be available for this PlaneTag. Regardless, owning a piece of such a rare and beautiful aircraft will be a delight for collectors.

 

Scaled Composites PlaneTags

In case you missed it, MotoArt also offers another PlaneTag that celebrates the achievements of Scaled Composites, namely the Stratolaunch aircraft. Our Boeing 747 N198UA PlaneTags are made from a former United Airlines passenger plane, whose parts were also used in the making of Stratolaunch. Don’t miss out on this one!

 

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