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Aviation: Jetting Ahead

  • Mary Grady

Acclaimed as the Pilatus PC-12 and its newer NG variant may be, they are single-engine turboprops, and so they have their limitations. Specifically, the 322 mph maximum cruise speed of the PC-12 NG does not compete with that of a jet. And so in May, Pilatus—a Swiss manufacturer that has been in business for more than seven decades—introduced its first-ever jet, the PC-24. “Owners of our PC-12 turboprops said they would love to go 100 knots [115 mph] faster, but they didn’t want to sacrifice other performance factors,” says Dominik Waser, a Pilatus program manager. 

The twin-engine PC-24, which Pila­tus calls a “super-versatile jet,” has a maximum cruise speed of 489 mph and a range of 2,200 miles. It can land on runways as short as 2,525 feet, versus 1,830 feet for the PC-12 NG. Such agility will allow access to thousands of small airports around the world. The PC-24’s performance numbers are comparable to those of other light jets, specifically Embraer’s $8.7 million Phenom 300 and Cessna’s roughly $9 million CJ4. And while the $8.9 million PC-24 seats as many as 10 passengers, compared to 9 for the CJ4 and 11 for the Phenom 300, the Pilatus jet is more spacious: Its cabin measures about 500 cubic feet, making it roughly 175 cubic feet bigger than the next-largest light-jet cabin, the Phenom 300’s. Also, the PC-24’s cabin has a continuously flat floor; the cabins of other light jets do not.

According to Waser, the PC-24 can strike this balance of capacity and capability because of its new high-lift wing, powerful flaps, and low landing speed. He also notes that the engine configuration enhances the aircraft’s safety. “The jet engines are placed high up and toward the back,” he says, “where they are protected from debris during takeoff and landing by the wings and flaps.”

Pilatus presented a mock-up of the PC-24 at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Geneva in May, and the company will begin taking orders for the aircraft next summer. The jet is expected to make its first flight by the end of next year, with deliveries scheduled to begin in early 2017.

Though, as Waser says, pilots moving up from turboprops will find that jets demand more flying experience and greater skill, the PC-24’s cockpit is designed to be intuitive. It has an avionics system that Pilatus developed with Honeywell, and it requires only one pilot. Owner-pilots will need a type rating to fly the jet. According to Waser, the PC-24 has drawn attention from medevac and commercial operators, corporate flight departments, fractional-ownership providers, and owner-pilots.

Pilatus Aircraft, www.pilatus-aircraft.com

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