Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Tackling the wilds of Utah in a do-it-all turboprop
We agreed to meet at the Canyonlands airport (KCNY) outside of Moab. Even though the airport is non-towered, it's served by Great Lakes airline service, and there can be a lot of traffic—particularly when the jump zone is active and sightseeing aircraft are operating. The 7,100-foot runway looks recently resurfaced and is in great shape. The friendly folks at Redtail Aviation provide fuel and parking; Enterprise offers car rentals. Just keep in mind that the airport is about 16 miles from Moab, so you're in the middle of nowhere when you step out of your airplane. Still, Moab is the gateway to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, as well as a common put-in for numerous white-water rafting trips on the Green and Colorado rivers. Moab can get overbooked when the weather is nice in the spring and fall, so it's best to make reservations ahead of time—even for the campgrounds.
As Vaughn pulled onto the ramp, it was hard not to be amazed by the size of the PC-12NG—it's indeed a great big airplane. With a wingspan of over 53 feet and a length of a little more than 47 feet, the PC-12 occupies similar ramp space as a King Air 250 or a Citation 3. The large forward airstair and high-gear stance combine to create a stately presence. Walk around the airplane, and you'll quickly notice that there's nothing lightweight about the PC-12NG. Everything from the trailing-link gear to the cabin doors up through the T-tail is built hell-for-stout with near-perfect fit and finish. The large 52x53-inch rear cargo door made it easy to load a full compliment of camping and climbing gear along with a couple of inflatable kayaks—just in case!
The Pilatus PC-12 is a remarkable airplane, so I was eager to try it out on a sightseeing run. Whether you need to get to a distant business meeting or into the backcountry with four friends, a couple of mountain bikes and supplies for three weeks, the PC-12 can make it happen in style. This Swiss-made overachiever is built to handle the rigors of short dirt strips in the backcountry and yet mix it up with jet traffic back in the city. With a single, highly reliable Pratt & Whitney PT6 turboprop engine, the speed, range, load-hauling capability and operating economics of the PC-12 are hard to match. Still, Pilatus has taken the new PC-12NG to a new level of performance and capability with the addition of even more horsepower and the SmartView synthetic vision system.
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