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Published on June 2nd, 2019 | by Alan Dwyer

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Pilatus PC-12 on Demo in Weston

Weston Airport in association with Global FBO Consult played host to Oriens Aviation as they displayed a Pilatus PC-12NG that was on view for a number of potential Irish customers. Oriens Aviation are the UK and Ireland brokers for the aircraft and provide maintenance support for the Pilatus aircraft. They recently had this aircraft on display at EBACE in Geneva. They will also be in a position to provide support for the new Pilatus PC-24 jet when deliveries come online. They currently have a new aircraft available for delivery in July 2020. The PC-12 is based at Biggin Hill airfield near London and had arrived earlier in the morning. The Pilatus PC-12 is a single-engine turboprop passenger and cargo aircraft manufactured by Pilatus of Stans, Switzerland since 1991. The main market for the aircraft is corporate transport and regional airliner operators. The PC-12 is the best-selling pressurized single-engine turbine-powered aircraft in the world and has been for several consecutive years with over 1,700 deliveries completed. The first flight of the PC-12 took place in May 1991 and it received the type certificate in March 1994, followed in the US by the FAA in the following July.

Since entering service, Pilatus developed a large number of improvements and options upon the original PC-12 model; amongst these changes include increases in the maximum takeoff weight, the use of increasingly powerful engines, the adoption of new avionics, noise-reduction measures, new propellers, speed and range increases, additional interiors, and new inflight entertainment systems. Other aviation firms, such as Finoff Aviation Products, have also produced their own independent products and aftermarket enhancement packages for the PC-12.

The PC-12 is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67 engine, early models being powered by the PT6A-67B, while the later PC-12NG variant uses the more powerful PT6A-67P, which is flat rated at only 70% of its maximum power. According to Pilatus, the PC-12NG has exceptional versatility and is capable of operating within the most rugged environments, such as the Australian Outback, it is one of the few pressurised turbine-powered aircraft capable of operating from rough landing strips. A trailing arm landing gear arrangement is used to enable the PC-12 to access thousands of airfields that most jet aircraft would be incapable of using.

The cabin interior of the PC-12 can accommodate up to nine passengers in a comfortable configuration, which includes features such as a refreshment centre, a fully enclosed lavatory, and a baggage area to the rear of the cabin. Other cabin configurations include executive arrangements, seating between six and eight passengers, a four-seat passenger-cargo combi-layout, and an Air Ambulance setup housing two litters and three attending medics. The interior was designed in conjunction with BMW’s design works division, making extensive use of leather, fine wood veneers and various textiles to create an environment deliberately akin to a luxury road vehicle. An atypically large cargo door is installed to accommodate more bulky items, including palletised cargo.

The PC-12 incorporates numerous safety measures. The PT6A-67 engine has a reputation for considerable reliability, a factor that has reportedly been decisive to some prospective operators. To counteract stall and spin conditions, dual angle-of-attack sensors near the wingtips force the stick forwards in advance of a potential stall. For greater redundancy, the PC-12 NG has a complete split-bus dual electrical system as akin to modern jet aircraft, in addition to two separate batteries and a third emergency battery. The type is certified for flight into known ice conditions; as per standard fit, pneumatic de-icing systems are installed in the wings and empennage, while electrical de-icing measures are integrated into the windshield and exhaust heat is used for engine inlet de-icing. The slow take-off and landing speeds, excellent short-field performance make the PC-12 ideal to use at local airfields, farm strips or racecourses.

The type features a three-axis autopilot as standard, while weather radar, long-range navigation systems and radar altimeter are optional. The flight deck of the PC-12NG is equipped with Honeywell’s Primus Apex avionics system, consisting of four 10-inch high-resolution LCD screens, two of which perform as the primary flight displays directly forward of either pilot, the other two being multi-function displays in a central position between the two pilots. The Apex system shares many similarities to the flight decks of other business jets and has been designed to minimise crew workload and provide for improved safety during single-pilot operations. An advanced synthetic vision system, delivering greater situational awareness and safety during visual flight rules (VFR) flight, is also present. The cockpit’s layout is optimised for ergonomic and aesthetic appeal, providing similar comfort levels for the flight crew as to the passengers. An engine condition monitoring system is present on the PC-12 NG, automatically monitoring engine parameters and producing relevant warnings, easing preventive maintenance efforts.

In June 2010, Pilatus announced that the 1,000th PC-12 had been delivered. By August 2013, the worldwide PC-12 fleet had accumulated a combined total of 4 million flight hours and 1,200 PC-12s had been delivered to customers. Just over a year after the 1300th, the 1400th PC-12 was delivered in July 2016. The fleet has accumulated 5.6 million total flight hours since certification, and 1 million flight hours for the 630 PC-12NG since its introduction in 2008. As the fleet logged over 6.8 million hours, the maintenance interval was raised from 100/150 hours to 300 and a new maintenance plan reduces labour by 20% to 40% to lower direct operating costs. The cost of a new PC-12NG is in the region of $5.1 million and one can be delivered by the end the year, depending on specs required. Pilatus carefully monitors market demand and adjusts production levels accordingly to avoid saturating the market and diminishing the customers’ investment in the PC-12. Independent providers of data services such as Rolland Vincent Associates confirm that the resale value of a PC-12 after five years of operation remains at around 83 percent of the original purchase price. The share of used PC-12 aircraft currently available on the market is not more than approximately 4%. Oscar J. Schwenk, Chairman at Pilatus, is delighted with the enduring success of the PC-12 and remarks: “I’m very pleased that, once again, the PC-12 is the best-selling turboprop in its class. It is proof of the extent to which our customers accord the PC-12 their full confidence. An original will always be an original! Our goal is to offer the best single-engine turboprop combined with the best customer service in class – now and in the future!”

The Irish Air Corps are scheduled to take delivery of three Pilatus PC-12’s for the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) roles in addition to other general purpose utility roles. The first two aircraft are scheduled to be delivered in late 2019 with the third following in 2020. The first two are currently getting fitted out in the United States and will return to Switzerland for pre-delivery work before delivery to Baldonnel.

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