Between the Beech Baron and Queen Air in size, performance and general capabilities, the Duke was a pioneer in the pressurised high performance light business twin class.
Beechcraft began design work on its new Model 60 in early 1965, with the first flight of the prototype occurring the following year on December 29. US FAA Certification was awarded on February 1 1968.
Design features of the Duke include turbocharged Lycoming TIO541 engines driving three blade propellers and a 0.32 bars (4.6psi) cabin pressure differential. The airframe was based loosely on the Baron's wing and undercarriage, plus a new fuselage employing bonded honeycomb construction. Optional fuel tanks in the wings were offered, increasing range.
Deliveries of the initial 60 model began in July 1968. Further development led to the improved A60. Appearing in 1970 it introduced an enhanced pressurisation system and longer life yet lighter turbochargers which increased the maximum altitude at which the engine could deliver maximum power, thus improving performance.
The definitive model of the Duke family is the B60. New interior arrangements and more improvements to the turbochargers were the main changes to this model, which first appeared in 1974. Production ceased in 1982.
Since its appearance the Duke has been regarded as something of a hot ship, with its high performance in a relatively small package the main attraction. However, this image did not translate into anything other than modest sales because of the Duke's relatively complex systems (turbochargers and pressurisation among them) and high operating costs.
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