Second PC-24 Flies

Before we get started, I have to admit that I'm a big fan of Pilatus aircraft. Though it may appear otherwise, I, sadly, won't get paid a dime to write any of this.

That said, I'm very happy to report that the second PC-24 prototype just completed its first flight. What, you haven't heard about the PC-24? I can't fault you - Pilatus hasn't been as vocal about it as they could. I don't think they need to though. The PC-24 starts with the capabilities and credibility that Pilatus built with the PC-12 and takes them to the next step in a logical progression. This isn't just an incremental improvement like next year's iPhone though. The PC-24 is a revolution in both the idea of utility business aviation and small jet capability.

I have about 2200 hours in Pilatus' current leading business aircraft, the PC-12. I also have a few hundred hours in the T-6A, which is the Pilatus PC-9M licensed to Beechcraft (uh Raytheon, uh...Cessna now?) The T-6A is more fun than should be legal. It's powerful, maneuverable, efficient (for a military jet-esque trainer) and relatively comfortable.

As good as the T-6A/PC-9 is, the PC-12 is a masterpiece. It firmly holds an important spot in the business aircraft of the world.

  • Sure, the TBM-900 is faster, but it achieves that speed by packing its passengers into a fuselage that feels like a sardine can.
  • The Beechcraft King Air has a second engine and can carry more. However, for the extra expense of that second engine, the interior is still cramped compared to the PC-12.
  • You can go a lot faster than a PC-12 in one of Embraer's line of executive jets, a member Cessna's Citation family, or even the One Aviation Eclipse 550. However, you'll pay more, burn a lot more fuel in a pair of turbofan engines, and you'll have a tiny aircraft only capable of carrying a few passengers.

The PC-12 competes so well in a market filled with all these other aircraft because it's able to provide the fit & finish of a nice business aircraft with the utility of an SUV. Sure, the King Air can handle some unimproved fields, but it wasn't designed for them from the ground up like the PC-12 was. I can tell you from experience that the PC-12 is a great aircraft for "unprepared surfaces." It has an enormous cargo door and lots of interior space. I've heard stories of owners using the PC-12 to transport snowmobiles, motorcycles, and a yard-worth of sod for their private island. None of the PC-12s competitors can match its utility.

  • To be fair, let's mention that the Cessna C-208 Caravan is a great utility aircraft. It does a great job of landing at unimproved surfaces and can carry a lot. It's not pressurized though and it's even slower than the PC-12.
  • I've also flown the Pacific Aerospace XSTOL P750. It was a riot to fly and offers utility comparable or superior to the C-208, but it has the same shortcomings compared with the PC-12.

Possibly the only valid complaints about the PC-12 were that it isn't fast and that it didn't have a second engine in case the first one failed. While neither seems to have been a major problem, it's obvious that plenty of potential customers have placed speed or redundancy before utility over the years. Pilatus noticed...and now they're developing the PC-24.

Just like the PC-12, the PC-24 is being developed first and foremost as a utility aircraft. It's designed to operate on less than 3000 feet of dirt. It has a large cargo door, much like its predecessor. Unlike all of Pilatus' previous aircraft though, the PC-24 is a twin turbofan offering speed, comfort and redundancy to match or exceed most of the PC-12's competitors.

This is revolutionary. There isn't another twin jet on the market designed for regular dirt operations. Pilatus claims that the PC-24 will be capable of operating from 21,000 airports worldwide. Many of these will be dirt or grass fields throughout the world that, until now, couldn't hope to operate anything faster than a PC-12. Being able to fly a PC-24 out of these airfields will make it possible to travel faster and farther from these places than ever before. From air ambulance, to business travel in developing nations, to military applications, the PC-24 will change the speed of utility aviation.

Pilatus is smart enough though to realize that it can't just make this an ugly utility aircraft. There are a lot of really nice twin jets out there, so the PC-24 has to measure up. They're putting all the right effort into interior styling and comfort, as well as owner service and support. I think this aircraft will be attractive to anyone in the market for a light jet, even if they aren't looking for a utility machine.

Pilatus is projecting the price at $8.9 Million in 2017. That's going to keep a lot of utility owners flying C-208s or used PC-12s for a long time. However, if a person or organization can afford to put a 3000' dirt strip somewhere and operate any turboprop aircraft from it, I'd say there's a fair chance a PC-24 will be attainable and advantageous to them.

As a big fan of the PC-12, I'm looking forward to seeing the PC-24 finish the certification process. I think it's going to exceed the outstanding record of the PC-12 and help change worldwide aviation.