I'm not claiming "expert" here, or anything. Because... As most of you know, I'm low time, and just got hired in my first gig. I got hired to help build the business, AND fly the airplanes. I've spent a considerable amount of time in recent weeks learning this aircraft as I have had no former experience with it. I've spent more time with the owner of the company, and the airplane than my gf in the past 10 days. I can also guarantee that we know more about any Merlin that is currently on the market than anyone.
I cannot disagree more with what Patrick
said about the Merlin. The company I am working with manages the largest fleet of Part 91 Merlins in the country. Most people who have opinions of the Merlin have spent little, if any time around them, let alone in them. Not a rip at Patrick, or anyone here, but simply conveying my experience around the flight line. It's one of those "polarizing" aircraft. A lot of opinion, very little substantiated fact. More "I've heard it does XXXXX, than "When I flew it, the one I flew did XXXX".
Oh god...if reliability is a concern, have them dig just a bit deeper in their pockets and get the Kingair. They will be much happier in the end.
Reliability is NOT an issue. It may also help that none of our aircraft have been dogged. And the aircraft we manage are some of the lowest timed aircraft in the fleet. I can get you some numbers, but there has never been a mission lost due to a breakage. However, the owners are always on top of their maintenance.
The Merlin flies farther, longer, and with more usable weight than any comparable KA. The Merlin carries 6 hours of gas (though ass time in that plane is 3.5, or so), and it burns 75-95 GPH. And faster; we trued out at 280 last night at FL250 coming back from Utah. At a lower DOC, as well.
The battery/starting issue is well documented. That is true. You won't get it started without help. You CAN, but not for extended operations.
Parts availability is not an issue. The aircraft ran in production from 1969 to 2000. Parts are available through M7 Aerospace, located in San Antonio, in the same facility that the Merlin was built. They are a stable company, and they have an agreement in place with Swearengen through 2030, or 2040. So... That's the parts issue.
I can go through each one of these issues raised on this thread, but you won't get the detailed information that you are needing to make this kind of involved decision.
Get in touch with me and we can get you factual, hard numbers into what running and operating this aircraft will cost. We can show you, exactly, what each aircraft burns, how much has been spent in maintenance over the year, or 5 years.
Hope it helps.