Pilots dream about having more than one airplane. They’d like one that’s comfortable and fast for serious cross-countries and another that’s nimble enough to even play in the dirt for the sheer fun of flying. As long as we’re dreaming, let’s include a ridiculously huge useful load, enough to carry a boatload of friends or family, and whatever toys and goodies the mission requires. And just to keep the fantasy simple, let’s make our dream machines single engines, so we can just strap in with our private pilot’s licenses and go. Sound about right so far? Surprisingly, you may not be dreaming.
The single-engine Swiss-made Pilatus PC-12 has room for about 1,000 pounds of gear after the seats are full. Even more impressive, the 1,200-shp turbine can leave its Denver, home and fly anywhere in the country on a single tank of gas, landing and taking off again anywhere there is 1,700 feet of available runway.
“I tested that 1,700-foot takeoff distance at a 2,000-foot grass ultralight strip outside of Naples, Fla.,” remembers Schneider. “I landed and took off with plenty of runway to spare.”
Versions of the big single earn their living as commuter airliners, air ambulances and heavy-haulers. Ninety-five percent of them that leave Colorado’s Jeffco Airport for new homes go configured as executive airplanes with plush leather seats and exotic woodwork. But these aren’t your typical corporate aircraft delivered to the hands of corporate flight crews. “More than three-quarters are owner-flown,” says Pilatus manager of marketing projects Mike Haenggi.
And that’s because the Pilatus PC-12 is designed for single-pilot operation. “It’s very easy to fly,” says Pilatus company-pilot Shane Jordan. “I come from a flight-instructor background and throughout my years of teaching, this is, by far, the biggest airplane I’ve ever flown.”
Pilots don’t have to push the airplane to compensate for out-of-the-ordinary situations. “If you’ve got a 727 ahead and 747 behind, and the tower says, ‘Can you keep your speed up?’ Well, you’ve got your gear down, flaps at 15 and you can still go all the way to 163 knots. That’s usually higher than their vRef. And when a Cessna 152 cuts you off, you go full flaps and you can fly all day at 75 knots,” explains Schneider.
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