Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Canada By PC-12

A Pilatus adventure across the border

What's It Like To Fly A Pilatus?

When I was first introduced to the PC-12, I was more than a little intimidated—especially by the huge POH! But after flying it (mainly from the right seat) a dozen or so times in the past year, I've gotten pretty comfortable. As my flight instructor and PC-12 mentor, Larry Askew, told me early on: "It's just an airplane."

It's a big step up from the piston singles I usually fly, with a maximum gross weight just over 10,000 pounds, a turboprop engine and cabin pressurization. But the truth is that in many ways, it's easier to fly the PC-12 than most high-performance singles, and it's much easier than any twin! Examples: There's no risk of shock cooling, which makes descents easy, and with a pressurized cabin, you don't have to mess with oxygen bottles and cannulas or masks. Cruising above 20,000 MSL on most flights avoids a lot of weather, and windshield/prop heat and de-ice boots, onboard weather radar, stormscope and XM weather displays make it easier to deal with the weather you can't avoid.

Cruising at around 250 knots does mean that you have to think ahead—as with any high-performance airplanes, you can get in trouble quickly if you don't—but the PC-12 has a sophisticated autopilot that does most of the stick-and-rudder work so that you have more time to think. That's a good thing because all flights at and above FL 180 (18,000 MSL) are IFR, so you spend a lot of time copying clearances and dealing with ATC instructions. It can get pretty busy, which is part of the reason Larry prefers a copilot on long trips.

Despite its size, weight and complexity, when the PC-12 is slowed to pattern speed (around 100 knots) it flies very much like a big piston single—heavy on the controls, but very stable and well-coordinated. And, the trailing link landing gear makes cross-wind landings easy.

I've enjoyed every flight I've made in the PC-12. The only problem with the airplane is the fuel burn: We flight-plan 450 pounds (about 67 gallons) per hour. I'm delighted to fly it—as long as someone else buys the Jet A!


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