PT6A-67P Powered Pilatus PC-12 NG: The Survivor that Keeps Adapting

When the Pilatus PC-12 first landed on the scene back in 1989, expectations were fairly modest. Earmarked for sales in the 200 region, nobody would have been surprised if the PC-12 had come in, served its purpose, and been resigned to history along with a plethora of similar aircraft.

But this was not to be the case.

Nearly thirty years after its launch, a new and improved PC-12 NG was recently released, continuing the fine-tuning process which has spanned three decades and helped the model become one of the most popular turboprop singles in existence. It has been improved consistently at every turn, which helps explain its continued popularity over such a long period of time. Increased take-off weight, more powerful engines, speed increase, range increase, noise reduction, new avionics, updated in-flight entertainment – the list goes on and on.

PC-12 Next Generation

In 2006 they went one step further with the announcement of the PC-12 Next Generation, or simply PC-12 NG. The changes were familiar – again we saw more powerful engines (Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67P was the best fit), increased maximum speed, and a Honeywell Primus Apex glass cockpit that brought the aircraft up to speed with newer models that had entered the market in the 17 years up to that point.

So what is it about the PC-12 that gave it this lasting durability? How did it come to be that the PC-12 was modified so many times to keep it up to date with the current market, and why is there a continuing demand for an aircraft revealed in 1989 when we consider the massive progress that has been made since then? To find the answer, it’s necessary not to look at what the aircraft can do, but what it can’t.

The PC-12 has never been the cheapest turboprop, nor the most expensive for that matter. But why not opt for a cheaper model which ticks many of the same boxes, say the Cessna 208 Caravan? Understanding the answer to this question leads to an understanding of why the PC-12 has been so immensely successful over the years. It’s not one aspect, but a variety all pulling together to produce an incredibly accomplished model, without any gimmick or needless excess.

PC-12 Next Generation

In 2006 they went one step further with the announcement of the PC-12 Next Generation, or simply PC-12 NG. The changes were familiar – again we saw more powerful engines (Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67P was the best fit), increased maximum speed, and a Honeywell Primus Apex glass cockpit that brought the aircraft up to speed with newer models that had entered the market in the 17 years up to that point.

So what is it about the PC-12 that gave it this lasting durability? How did it come to be that the PC-12 was modified so many times to keep it up to date with the current market, and why is there a continuing demand for an aircraft revealed in 1989 when we consider the massive progress that has been made since then? To find the answer, it’s necessary not to look at what the aircraft can do, but what it can’t.

The PC-12 has never been the cheapest turboprop, nor the most expensive for that matter. But why not opt for a cheaper model which ticks many of the same boxes, say the Cessna 208 Caravan? Understanding the answer to this question leads to an understanding of why the PC-12 has been so immensely successful over the years. It’s not one aspect, but a variety all pulling together to produce an incredibly accomplished model, without any gimmick or needless excess.

Adrenaline injection

Comparing it again with the Caravan series, we can see that the PC-12 is capable of 280 knots – nearly 100 more than the Caravan’s 186 knots, yet 50 shy of something like the Socata TBM 900. Seating up to nine passengers (plus two crew members), its interior layout can easily be customized to tailor it to the buyer’s needs, without the lavish glitz and glamor of, say, customizable Boeing aircraft. It’s safe, but not boring; its reliability, given an adrenaline injection by the use of PC-12 aircraft by the U.S. Air Force.

Getting it off the ground isn’t too taxing either. Dual electrical generators are automatically kick started after the aircraft is powered on, and the NG model is rightfully single-pilot certified. It doesn’t have the amateur appeal of the Cirrus SF50 but, once again, the passenger controls manage to hit that sweet spot that the PC-12 seems to do so effortlessly.

Read more at Paramount Business Jets.

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