On Ireland becoming a member of the EEC in 1973 the need to protect our maritime interests was necessary in a way that had not seriously been done before. While aerial surveillance was an obvious and reasonable solution there had apart from a few proving flights undertaken by the piston engined Dove aircraft been little real interest in this role. Lack of money was another factor and it was not until 1977 that a Beechcraft Super King Air 200 was leased for a three-year period. This aircraft She delivered on 9th March 1977, came from United Beech Scandinavia as SE-GRR (c/n BB-208) and was then registered EI-BCY before being allotted the serial number 232. Four pilots went to Wichita in Kansas for training by the Beechcraft Company including Commandant Michael Hipwell (later Lt. Col., retired) who was an experienced Dove pilot and also an international rugby player!
A second aircraft N4914M (c/n BB-376) was leased from the original supplier and delivered on 12th July 1978. Like the first aircraft she retained her civilian colour scheme and was originally registered EI-BFJ. As an interim measure, the Government decided to purchased both aircraft in December 1979, but it was not until the summer of 1983 that 232 was finally repainted into her Air Corps marking complete with an impressive high visibility white and dayglo red colour scheme. Shortly afterwards 234 received a similar colour scheme.
The King Air served us well but unfortunately flying for long periods in a turbulent, salty atmosphere took its toll and it was decided in conjunction with the manufacturer that the aircraft could not be used because of the fatigue and corrosion experienced beyond 5,000 hours. 232 (c/n BB-208) delivered on 9th March 1977 was sold and left Baldonnel as N60MK on the 11th February 1992 and at stage her total hours were just under 5,323. Sister ship 234 (c/n BB-376) was delivered on 12th July 1978 and by the time of her departure as N409GA on the 21st November 1991 her total hours were just over 5,229. The total amount realised from the sale of the two aircraft was ?679,450 (IR?535,000) approximately.
Given that they were an interim aircraft the business case for their replacement - the CASA - had to be made and two of these more capable aircraft were delivered at cost of ?55.3 million (inclusive of VAT) less than three years later. Pending delivery of the new CASAs the Air Corps leased a company CASA serial ?250? for the period 6th June 1991 to 16th January 1995.
Returning to the original King Airs. 232 now N62DL and registered to ZMM Services LLC since the 14th October 2004 was last noted operating between Elk River, Minnesota and Craig Muni (KCRG) Jacksonville, Florida, on the 16th August while 234 now registered as N376RC BAM Aircraft Leasing LLC operated a flight between Dallas Love Field (KDAL) and Tradewind Airport (KTDW) in Amarillo, Texas, on the 30th October 2007.
It appears that there is some life left in these aircraft yet. Similarly King Air ?240? (BB-672) delivered new on the 12th July 1978 is still going strong. It is kept in pristine conditions and was never tasked with the rigours of Maritime patrol but consideration will need to be given to its replacement soon. An indication of the Air Corps thinking in this matter can be seen by the decision to acquire However, it has to be realised that the Learjet was acquired to replace the King Air in the MATS role so making the case to replace it (again) or even retain it difficult.
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