Former NASACAR driver owns and operates first King Air 350 with Pro Line II to Pro Line Fusion retrofit
Loy Allen, Jr. made a name for himself in auto racing but for all of his life he has loved flying.
Growing up in North Carolina, it’s not unusual that Allen started racing go karts as a 5-year-old. By 1982, he had won the World Karting Association championship. He graduated to racing dirt late models at age 15 and not long after that he earned his private pilot’s license.
“After I obtained my license, I couldn’t continue to pursue the additional ratings due to the cost,” Allen said. “My short track racing career was starting to take off, and at that stage you’re racing 80 to 90 times a year. You don’t have money, you’re just trying to get ahead in the sport.”
He shelved his aviation passion for a few years while he focused on establishing his racing career. In 1983, he started a six-year stretch racing super late models in the National Dirt Racers Association. By 1992, he was competing in the ARCA Racing Series, a feeder series for NASCAR. As a 27-year-old Winston Cup Series rookie in 1994, Allen won the pole for the Daytona 500, NASCAR’s most prestigious event.
“In my mid-20s when I started racing in NASCAR, I finally earned enough money to own an airplane,” Allen said. “I was in Daytona testing so much in the winter that I had a place there, so I decided to go to Embry Riddle in Daytona to finish all my ratings.”
His first purchase was a Cessna 210 single-engine piston, then he moved to a Cessna 340 piston twin and eventually a Cessna 425 Conquest twin turboprop. He would fly his personal aircraft between races and to weekly tire testing sessions. On race weeks, he often flew with his various race teams in their Beechcraft King Air 100 and 200 aircraft, where his preferred view was sitting right seat.
Allen’s career slowed after he was injured during a race in the mid-1990s. He worked in motorsports until the early 2000s. In 2008, Allen purchased a King Air 350 as the company business aircraft. Allen had Stevens Aviation Greenville paint the exterior and update the interior of the one-owner 1996 model. Stevens has also installed several exterior modifications for Allen: Raisbeck crown wing lockers and dual aft body strakes along with Frakes exhaust stacks.
“I’ve flown a lot of different aircraft and I always flew in the team’s King Airs throughout my racing career,” Allen said. “That’s where I really cut my teeth on loving King Airs. I flew in the King Air 200 often. With a full payload we were typically main tanks only with fuel to be at max weight, which cut down on our needed range. The 200 is still an incredible proven aircraft, we just needed more payload and range for our missions. We chose the King Air 350 and it does everything we need. The big wing and almost 60-foot wingspan makes it an incredible climber, payload hauler and a very friendly aircraft to maneuver and fly. For our flight missions, no other aircraft compares to the King Air 350.”
The company typically flies the aircraft within a 500-mile radius. The King Air 350 is an ideal business tool to get its customers and team members to their various offices and job sites, oftentimes much closer than a commercial flight could get them. A typical business mission for Allen is an hour to 90-minute flight with six to eight passengers.
“I’ve landed and departed many different aircraft onto short runways with sometimes unpredictable crosswinds,” Allen said. “With its predictable flying characteristics, cockpit and cabin size and hot and heavy performance, the King Air 350 is by far the friendliest aircraft to land and depart these runways. Something as simple as the dual wheels is a reassuring feeling on the unimproved runways when you’re far from home and maintenance support.”
In 2010, Allen elected to overhaul the engines with Pratt & Whitney at 3,300 total time since new. “That was early, but I felt that the engines were the only area of the airplane that was an unknown,” he said. “I wanted the peace of mind of having the engines overhauled.”
In early 2015, Allen partnered with Rockwell Collins and Signature TECHNICAir in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to become the first King Air 350 with Pro Line II to be retrofitted with Pro Line Fusion. Rockwell Collins used Allen’s aircraft to earn the STC, and Allen was involved in all phases of testing.
“I had over 70 hours in the airplane during all the flight testing,” Allen said. “It took a lot of my time but it was really educational. I already knew Collins was a great product but I really learned the incredible quality of the Collins product. During many phases of testing we had to think of all the different 350 flight missions, like Coast Guard search and rescue operations and the 350ER military use. We had to consider something as simple as gloves being worn by the flight crew and how the touch displays would react. This all was tested in detail by incredible pilots and engineers.”
The upgrade was completed in January 2016. Allen’s first flights with Fusion were to short airfields, which get his passengers closer to remote jobsites and gave him further opportunity to test out the improved situational awareness and LPV approach capability in real world flying.
“Fusion allows me to meet the ADS-B Out requirement and gives me LPV approach capability, which we use often,” Allen said. “Including testing, I’ve flown the aircraft with Fusion for two years now and it’s been incredible. It’s brought our airplane up to a very advanced military grade avionics and a FMS truly open architecture system that will take us into the future. My airplane decreased in weight by 80 pounds and I have all the options. The aircraft is equipped with many enhancements: two 4000S GPS units, TCAS II TTR-4100, TAWS, two DMEs, ADF, a CMU-4000 with VHF-4000 third COMM allowing CPDLC, XMWR1000 graphical weather, search and rescue, 3500 IMS that automatically downloads all the NavData by Wi-Fi or cellular, Airshow 500, RDC-4002 allowing advanced messaging with emergency checklist on the displays eliminating the original annunciators above the throttle quadrant, SVS and GEO Chart extension on all displays. Besides the Fusion upgrade, TECHNICAir installed multiple USB charging ports and Airshow 500.”
The aircraft has a total of 3,800 hours and Allen flies the King Air 350 approximately 150 to 250 hours each year.
“I can load the 350 and go with 10 people and full fuel,” Allen said. “Everyone loves that all the luggage is on the inside of the airplane, making that forgotten item easily retrievable. And whether it’s a high-altitude airport or short coastal runway in August, the hot and heavy performance makes it no problem to get in and out of wherever we want to go.”