On May 21, surrounded by crowds of eager attendees at EBACE (European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition), Pilatus chairman Oscar Schwenk called for the unveiling of Pilatus Aircraft’s long-awaited new twinjet project, the PC-24. When the black curtain dropped amid clouds of dry-ice-induced smoke to the theme song from the Superman movie, the fuselage mockup of the PC-24 was revealed. As expected, the new twinjet looks large, just the way that a PC-12 has an imposing ramp presence for a single-engine turboprop, and it also shares the PC-12’s cavernous cargo door and utilitarian performance.
PC-12 operators wanting to move into larger airplanes had been asking Pilatus for something new, but there was nothing available to keep them in the Pilatus family. What these customers wanted, Schwenk said, was an aircraft with the capabilities of the PC-12, but faster and with a bigger cabin. He introduced the new PC-24 as a “super versatile jet” or SVJ, because, he explained, it’s in an entirely new category for business jets. “The PC-24 is unique. It’s the only aircraft combining the versatility of a turboprop with the cabin size of a medium-size jet and the performance of a light jet.”
The PC-24 airframe is all-metal and the jet is designed to operate from short and unimproved runways, needing as little as 2,690 feet (balanced field length) for takeoff at maximum takeoff weight. Landing distance over a 50-foot obstacle is 2,525 feet. At 5,000 feet and ISA +20 degrees C, the PC-24 at maximum takeoff weight needs a balanced field length of 4,430 feet. Stall speed at maximum landing weight and sea level is 81 knots.
These numbers mean that the PC-24 can operate from more than 21,000 airports worldwide, including 8,383 airports in North America and 2,928 airports in Europe–91 and 79 percent, respectively, more than its closest competitor, according to Pilatus.
Intended for FAA Part 23 commuter category and EASA CS 23 certification, the PC-24 can be flown by one pilot. The PC-24 has a wingspan of 55 feet 9 inches, and the wings, while tapered at the leading edge, are straight and not swept. Wing area covers 332.6 sq ft and wing loading is 53 lb/sq ft. With a height of 17 feet 4 inches and length of 55 feet 2 inches, the PC-24 is slightly larger by two to three feet compared to Embraer’s Phenom 300 and three feet shorter in length than Cessna’s XLS+ but with seven inches less wingspan than the XLS+. The PC-24’s dual-wheel main landing gear swings inward and retracts into uncovered wells in the fuselage center section. Tires are inflated to a low-pressure of just 72 psi. Fueling is via a single-point pressure refueling port.
Two Williams International FJ44-4A engines help the PC-24 climb directly to its maximum altitude of FL450 in fewer than 30 minutes and achieve a high-speed cruise of 425 ktas at FL300. Range with an 800-pound payload (four passengers) at long-range cruise speed and NBAA 100-nm IFR reserves is 1,950 nm or 1,800 nm with six passengers. At maximum payload, range drops to 1,190 nm.
Maximum takeoff weight is 17,650 pounds and maximum payload 2,500 pounds. Usable fuel load is 5,965 pounds and maximum payload with full fuel is 915 pounds.
With a flat floor and seating for six to eight passengers or up to 10 in commuter configuration, the PC-24’s cabin volume is 501 cu ft, “much more than bigger aircraft that cost twice as much,” Schwenk said. The cabin is pressurized to a maximum of 8.78 psi pressure differential, providing a sea level cabin altitude at 23,500 feet and 8,000-foot cabin altitude at 45,000 feet. The PC-24 naturally features a large cargo door like the PC-12, and the baggage compartment is pressurized.
Key to the PC-24’s short-field performance is a unique design feature of the jet’s two Fadec-controlled 3,435-pound-thrust Williams International engines. An additional 5 percent power (to 3,600 pounds) is available via a new automatic thrust reserve feature, according to Williams. The engines also employ Williams’s Exact passive thrust vectoring nozzle technology, which uses the Coanda effect to provide a three-degree “vectored” thrust during high power operations. The Exact feature was planned for Piper’s canceled Altaire single-engine jet, although using a higher seven-degree vector. An anti-iced and noise-suppressing inlet is supplied by Williams, as is an integral pre-cooler “to condition engine bleed air and reduce drag losses.” The PC-24 doesn’t need an APU because the FJ44s use Williams’s Quiet Power Mode to provide ground power efficiently and with little noise. The engine has a 5,000-hour TBO and hot-section interval of 2,500 hours.
Pilatus has already begun building the prototype PC-24 in a small hangar tucked into the edges of the company’s Stans, Switzerland headquarters. The first PC-24 is to roll out in the third quarter of next year and fly before the end of 2014. EASA and FAA certification is planned in early 2017, according to Schwenk, and first delivery will take place immediately after certification.
The PC-24 will sell for $8.9 million in 2017 economic terms, according to Schwenk. Pilatus isn’t taking orders at the rest of this year’s shows where it is exhibiting, but plans to open the order book next May. Financing for the program is entirely from Pilatus funds.