Pilot Journal
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Second-Generation Pilatus PC-12


Pilatus takes another look at its PC-12 and makes a good airplane even better


One of the realities of delivering corporate airplanes for part of your living is that you don’t get every job you bid. For a variety of reasons (many of which have nothing to do with price), you’re lucky to be awarded one out of 20. Some jobs just go away because the planned delivery never happens. Others get assigned to someone’s brother-in-law who used to fly fighters in Korea, and still others wind up flown by a factory pilot. I probably realize less than 5% of my bids because I’m becoming pickier (i.e., more expensive) in my bidding after 30 years. The older I get, the better I used to be.
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pilatusOne of the realities of delivering corporate airplanes for part of your living is that you don’t get every job you bid. For a variety of reasons (many of which have nothing to do with price), you’re lucky to be awarded one out of 20. Some jobs just go away because the planned delivery never happens. Others get assigned to someone’s brother-in-law who used to fly fighters in Korea, and still others wind up flown by a factory pilot. I probably realize less than 5% of my bids because I’m becoming pickier (i.e., more expensive) in my bidding after 30 years. The older I get, the better I used to be.

One trip I sincerely regret missing out on entailed taking a new Pilatus PC-12 from Connecticut to Ulan Bator—yes, I had to look it up. Turns out it’s the capitol of Mongolia, and the trip was supposed to take place in the early summer of 2001. It was planned for a far northern, semi-great-circle route, about 6,000 nm, with refueling stops in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada; Fairbanks and Nome, Alaska; Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka, Russia; and probably someplace else with a name I can’t spell. For a combination of reasons, the ferry flight never happened. Spilt milk, I guess. Trips such as that don’t come along very often.

pilatus
With a max payload of 2,866 pounds, the
PC-12 NG can carry up to nine passengers or fill the huge cargo area, accessible via a forklift-loadable door in back.
So here I am in Broomfield, Colo., seven years later, snug in the left seat of the newest PC-12 NG with Peter Duncan, chief pilot for Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd., North America, riding shotgun to protect me from evil. In truth, there really isn’t any evil associated with this airplane. It’s comfortable, totally without artifice or deception, friendly in every mode and an easy machine to transition into. It’s about as close as you can come to a giant panda with wings. Pilatus Manager Mike Haenggi and Pilot Journal photographer Jim Lawrence luxuriate in the back in a vain attempt to bring gross weight closer to some representative number.

Though this is a finished airplane, most of the PC-12s in residence in Broomfield aren’t. The planes are flown in “green” from Stans, Switzerland, sans paint and interior; they’re then configured to customer demands in Colorado.

Before our flight, Duncan and I walked around the airplane, discussing the old and the new of Pilatus’ corporate turbine single. There was plenty to discuss. The new PC-12 is a much improved version of the airplane I flew for this magazine’s premier issue in 1999. That model was a capable load hauler, but the new version is better in a variety of ways, and only one of those improvements is the new, all-glass Honeywell Primus Apex avionics.






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