Deliveries begin for Pilatus PC-12 NG

 - April 29, 2008, 6:22 AM

The latest version of the Pilatus PC-12, featuring new avionics and a new engine, received FAA and EASA certification on March 28. The PC-12 Next Generation, formally known as the PC-12/47E, was announced at the 2006 NBAA Convention. The added features include some that operators have been seeking for many years and indicate that the PC-12’s popularity hasn’t abated. More than 780 PC-12s have been delivered since the large single-engine turboprop began selling in 1994. Deliveries of the PC-12 NG began right after certification.

The PC-12 NG’s maximum weights and flight envelope remain the same, but the more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67P engine offers a higher thermodynamic rating and better hot-and-high performance. Compared with the PC-12/47’s PT6A-67B, the “P” delivers 15 percent more power, with a thermodynamic rating of 1,845 shp max takeoff and 1,745 shp climb/cruise. The flat rating remains at 1,200 shp for takeoff and is increased to 1,200 shp for cruise, up from 1,000 shp in previous PC-12 models. With a 1,000-pound payload, the PC-12 can fly 1,573 nm (NBAA IFR range, 100-nm alternate, high-speed cruise). Differences between the two engines include single-crystal compressor turbine blades, a new compressor configuration and a dual-generator accessory gearbox to house two 300-amp generators. The two 300-amp generators, coupled with a new power generation and distribution system with automatic load shedding, should make managing the electrical system easier. Earlier PC-12s had a main and smaller backup generator.

Automatic digital pressurization controls are normal in modern airplanes, and PC-12 operators have long wished for an update to the PC-12’s analog system, which works fine but requires more pilot input. The PC-12 NG features a digital cabin pressure control system and digital environmental control system controller, which will make the pilot’s job easier and pressurization and environmental system operation more comfortable for passengers.

A Built-in Glass Panel
The heart of the PC-12 NG upgrade is the instrument panel, which received a complete make-over. PC-12 owners who wanted a full glass panel upgrade from the decades-old Bendix/King EFIS 50 avionics that were standard had no choice but to buy an aftermarket system offered by Universal Avionics or Innovative Solutions & Support. The PC-12 NG now features the Honeywell Primus Apex glass cockpit, with
four 10.4-inch displays. (The copilot PFD is optional.)

PC-12 pilots will immediately notice the absence of the distinct central advisory and warning system (CAWS) panel on the PC-12 NG. The CAWS panel is the go-to for almost every PC-12 system and delivers a lot of systems information to pilots. On the NG, however, the CAWS panel has transmuted into an electronic entity displayed on the upper left sixth of the lower MFD. The instrument panel is also cleaned up by moving landing gear, flap, trim and engine and systems indicators onto the lower MFD.

Pilatus has always maintained that the PC-12 was a highly integrated airplane and therefore difficult to modify, but the NG takes that a step further. “We are convinced that the Honeywell Primus Apex truly deserves to be called an integrated avionics system,” explained Daniel Kunz, PC-12 director of sales and marketing.

While the Apex PFDs and MFDs have plenty of soft keys for data entry, Pilatus added an alphanumeric keyboard and joystick in the center console. Apex also includes an integrated flight management system. Other new avionics features include multimodal digital navcom radios and GPS receivers, digital autopilot and dual-channel ADAHRS, RVSM capability as a standard feature and fully independent electronic standby instrument system.

The base price of the PC-12 NG is $3.48 million, and the airplane sells for about $4 million in the executive configuration.