To show the PC-12NG single-engine turboprop on the ABACE static display, Pilatus Aircraft production test pilot Beda Rohner flew a long way, beginning at Pilatus headquarters in Stans, Switzerland. The brand-new PC-12NG departed Stans and then stopped in Greece, Egypt, Bahrain, Karachi and Calcutta. But before the airplane landed in Shanghai, the Pilatus crew stopped in Kunming for a unique flight demonstration for a new PC-12 customer.
The purpose of the demonstration was to show how the PC-12NG could carry a full payload, in this case 2,200 pounds that included Rohner, Chinese navigator Jack Li and four passengers (including two CAAC officials) when flying from Diqing Airport in Shangri-La. The airport is known as a “super-high plateau airport” and is one of the highest in the world, at its elevation of 10,787 feet (3,288 meters). The flight also was intended to demonstrate the safety and reliability of the PC-12 to the Kunming-based customer, who has ordered two PC-12NGs for charter, aeromedical and sightseeing use.
On April 11, Rohner flew the PC-12 from Kunming to Diqing, landing in the afternoon. The plan had been to land in the morning, but the earlier flight had to be cancelled due to weather. The PC-12 and crew stayed overnight in Shangri-La, then took off with the full payload on April 12, using just one-third of the runway to leave the ground. Rohner didn’t need to climb the PC-12NG in a spiral to clear the mountains around Shangri-La because the aircraft was able to climb and fly directly to Kunming. From there, Rohner flew the PC-12NG to Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai in four hours and 25 minutes at 26,500 feet.
According to navigator Li, “This PC-12 consumed less fuel during the round trip to Diqing than what was consumed by the APU while I was waiting for departure at Kunming Airport [in an airline jet].”
The Diqing landing and takeoff were the first time that a single-engine turboprop flew from a super-high plateau airport, according to Pilatus. After ABACE, Rohner will fly the PC-12NG to Australia.
Pilatus is expanding its presence in China, too, and recently agreed on plans to build a PC-6 and PC-12 assembly facility in Chongqing.