If you’re reading this article, you likely know of Tom Clements, a regular columnist for this magazine who is admired for his expertise developed over 46 years of flying and instructing in King Airs. So, a few eyes widened when last summer he wrote: “Thus far, this truly is the greatest
King Air that I have yet had the pleasure to operate.”
The owners of that Beechcraft King Air 350 were thrilled and thankful, as Clements along with Chip McClure encouraged them to be among the first King Air 350 owners to take advantage of the new Blackhawk XP67A Engine+ upgrade that replaced PT6A-60As with Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67A engines, producing 1,050 SHP up to 25,000 feet, paired with 5-blade natural composite MT Propellers with spinners.
The Petznick family had been working with McClure of Jet Acquisitions to find their next King Air. Their King Air journey began in 2007 with co-ownership of a 2001 King Air C90, then in 2011 they bought a 1999 King Air B200. After six years, they were ready for a faster aircraft and a more comfortable double club interior. They purchased a 2008 King Air 350, serial number FL-602, in 2018 and soon sent it to Stevens Aviation in Nashville, Tennessee.
Clements, a friend of the Petznick family from his early days of managing and flying their King Air C90, has been an adviser on each move they made up the King Air line. He told them he thought Blackhawk’s latest STC would be one of its most successful King Air upgrades. He and McClure also encouraged the Petznicks to consider combining the engine upgrade with installing the new Garmin G1000 NXi flight deck, replacing the original Collins Pro Line 21 system which would need modernization to comply with ADS-B and to mate with the new engines.
While Stevens had done -67A/G1000 installations on other King Airs, this was the first -67A/G1000 NXi (Phase II) installation done by anyone so there were delays while waiting for the FAA’s approval of this STC combination. The aircraft was ready in late July and Clements assisted the Petznick’s chief pilot, since retired, in flying it home to Arizona.
“This is only the second time I have flown any King Air with MT props and I am quite impressed,” he wrote. “Quiet, smooth, nice flare characteristics. I particularly like the fact that the 1,050 RPM minimum idle speed limit no longer applies and the horrific complexity of the Flight and Ground Low Pitch Stops has been totally eliminated. Only a single LPS now, just like in the C90- and 200-series.”
As passengers for about 250 flight hours during the past year, the Petznicks are happy with their investment.“We’re really proud of this plane,” Earl said. “It’s been everything it was advertised to be in the cockpit and in the cabin. The performance is phenomenal.”
And the chief pilot who took over flying the aircraft in December 2018 is still pinching himself for landing a dream job.
“The only way I can describe getting to fly this King Air is: it’s awesome,” said Josh Lubbers, the Petznick’s 38-year-old chief pilot. “The extra 30-40 knots of speed, the climb performance and having the G1000 NXi at my fingertips: all the upgrades make the airplane amazing. It’s unlike any other King Air out there right now.”
Earl Petznick Jr. and Olen Petznick are the third-generation owners and operators of Northside Hay Company and its subsidiaries that predominantly do business in the agriculture sector. The company has been Arizona’s largest hay broker since its founding in 1948 and it currently has 157,000 cattle on feed south of the Phoenix metro area along with selling alfalfa hay and alfalfa pellets for the horse market nationwide.
“Both my brother and I have been involved with all aspects of our business and over the years we have both done every job from the ground up,” Earl said.
They learned the business from their father Earl Petznick, Sr., an Arizona Farming and Ranching Hall of Fame honoree who started his career in agriculture in 1960 when he went to work for his father-in-law Olen Dryer at Northside Hay Mill and Trading Company in the community of Laveen just southwest of Phoenix.
Northside operates mostly in Arizona, where it has about 140 employees, but does business in several western states, Earl said. Specializing in the purchase and sale of baled products and servicing the feed needs of dairies, feedlots, ranchers, stables and horse owners means frequent travel to remote areas to cultivate relationships with the largest and most productive farms in the Southwest.
“Most of the places we visit are not accessible same-day in any way, shape or form,” Earl said. “We do a lot more customer visits and a lot more property visits with a plane than we would have ever considered before.”
The company started using general aviation in 2007 when they partnered with good friend and business associate, Pat Feenstra, on the 2001 C90.
“The C90 was a great first airplane for us to experiment to see how having an airplane could work for us,” Earl said. “It was too small for most of our missions, though our partner in the C90 was a pilot, so it was better suited for him. We made it work until we were ready to move up to a 200.”
In 2011, they went in with another partner on the 1999 King Air B200 that has Raisbeck wing lockers and dual aft body strakes. They put about 1,000 hours on it over six years of ownership and are currently selling it through Elliott Jets’ office in Minneapolis. It has 6,800 hours total time and ADS-B installation is scheduled this fall with Elliott.
The King Air 350 is based at Cutter Aviation at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. They use the Textron Aviation Mesa Service Center for some maintenance work as well as continuing to use Stevens Aviation in Nashville for larger jobs.
“King Airs have always been on our radar,” Earl said. “They seem to fit our company image and missions better than jets. We love the safety history of the King Airs, and you can get into some places that you can’t with jets.
“While the majority of our flights are west of the Mississippi River, we’ve covered a pretty good range in our King Airs. We’ve gone as far north as Norman Wells, Canada, which is about 60 miles from the Arctic Circle, and we travel down to Mexico about four times a year. We’ve been as far east as Georgia a few times, too.”
In addition to touring properties they own and visiting calf suppliers, the family uses their King Air to take customers and employees fishing or for personal trips to visit family, take vacation, hunt and fish.
More upgrades on the way
The Petznicks see N416NH as a keeper. They appreciate the time savings, for example regular trips to Sandpoint, Idaho, almost to the Canadian border, take 30-45 minutes less with the Blackhawk-upgraded 350 compared to the B200. The interior double-club configuration is more comfortable compared to the sofa and three forward seats in the B200.
They also appreciate the enhanced safety with the G1000 NXi avionics suite. Prior to Lubbers joining the company, they had been flying with two pilots.
“When I started, their insurance required two type-rated pilots,” Lubbers said. “I mentioned to the brothers that I’ve flown single pilot in my family’s 300 and C90B for the past five years and that might be something to look into. They called their insurance company and were able to get single pilot usage for less money than they were paying for two type pilots. Going forward, we’ll still use a second pilot if any passengers want the peace of mind of having another pilot, or if we’re heading out for a long day or a trip where there might be some difficult weather.”
For anyone wondering about the investment in the G1000 NXi, Lubbers has this to say:
“I’ve had experience with the legacy G1000 in the 300 that I flew and now I have time behind the NXi – it’s a night and day difference as far as how fast it starts up, how much clearer and brighter and detailed the screens are, how much faster you can pan around on the moving map, being able to overlay your active weather radar on your moving map. I think it’s a pretty easy upgrade if you have the legacy, so if anyone is on the fence, I would do it if you can afford it for all of the upgrades that comes with the NXi.”
More upgrades are on the way for the Petznicks. When they can carve out downtime they plan to get a new paint job and eventually an interior refurbishment. Earl said he is eager to add the electronic polarization package that the factory King Air 350i offers, and he wants to upgrade the Wi-Fi system when they change out the interior.
Meanwhile, Lubbers said he sees the family flying more than the 250 hours they averaged in the B200 because the 350 is faster, quieter and more comfortable. While taking the job required a move from Florida to Arizona, Lubbers said he’s enjoyed the new landscapes and challenges of flying in the southwest and the opportunity to fly “the best and fastest King Air out there.”
Lubbers came to Northside Hay Company with 1,600 hours in King Airs. He first got his pilot’s license while in community college in Iowa, but lost interest while playing golf professionally from 2003-2006. In 2011, he was working in the golf industry in Florida and was visiting his parents on their Iowa farm when crop dusting planes flying overhead reminded him how much he missed flying. He found a flight school in Florida and by 2012 he had earned his instrument, commercial and multi-engine ratings.
In 2013, his parents purchased a Cessna 414A and Lubbers flew it for them as a shuttle between their home in Florida and their chicken hatchery business in Iowa. They moved up to a King Air C90B, then a King Air 300 that allowed for nonstop flights between the destinations. When his parents retired from the business and settled into Florida full-time, they no longer needed the airplane. Lubbers flew the 300 on charter and for about 20 Angel Flights through the Angel Flight Southeast Air Charity Network until the airplane sold, right before learning that Northside Hay Company’s pilot was retiring.
It’s been an ideal partnership, both said.
“He’s from an agricultural background as well and he gets us,” Earl said. “He gets what we do and what we’re about.”