General and business aviation now accounts for more than half the overall balance sheet at Swiss aircraft manufacturer Pilatus. This trend is likely to increase once the new PC-24 midsize jet enters service at the end of 2017.
Last month, Pilatus reported reduced sales revenues of SFr 821 million ($842 million) for 2016 but stressed that these were better than anticipated, given where the company stands in the current business cycle. This represents a 25 percent drop in revenues compared to 2015. Last year, the company achieved profits of SFr 89 million ($91.3 million)—53 percent down on 2015. The sales backlog stood at SFr 1.7 billion ($1.74 billion), and this figure does not include any of the PC-24 orders logged to date.
Last year was the first since 2012, for which general and business aviation income has accounted for the largest part of Pilatus’s portfolio (representing 56 percent of total income). Sales of the new PC-12NG turboprop single were up 30 percent on the previous year—at 91 aircraft compared to 70 in 2015. “This is in an environment in which all the major business aircraft manufacturers have had to contend with stagnating or declining sales figures,” said the company in an April 28 press release.
“Pilatus is committed to sustainable long-term business development,” commented company chairman Oscar Schwenk. “We knew that the 2016 results would be somewhat lower in terms of EBIT. But we have purposely invested in the future to create a solid basis for the coming years.”
During 2016, Pilatus added 56 new staff, taking total employees to 1,961, and 170 positions are expected to be added during calendar 2017. The company is adding two new apprenticeship programs this summer, taking the total to 13. It is already training 115 apprentices.
On the military side of its business, Pilatus achieved an important breakthrough in late 2016 when France’s air force selected its PC-21 trainer. The French military is taking 17 of the single-turboprop aircraft and will use them to train future Rafale fighter pilots. The Royal Jordanian Air Force and Britain’s Empire Test Pilots School also have ordered PC-21s.
The Pilatus engineering team now has three PC-24 prototypes involved in test flights, and, as of late April, they had collectively logged more than 1,500 hours. The third prototype incorporates final design and system configurations that will apply to serial production models, which are already being built ahead of anticipated type certification in the fourth quarter of this year.
At the company’s Stans headquarters, it is building a new 10,000-sq-m (107,643-sq-ft) final assembly hall, plus a surface treatment center at a cost of around $61 million. It is investing a further $41 million in new milling machines that the company says will allow it to “keep production in Switzerland, in spite of high labor costs.”
In the U.S., Pilatus is improving facilities at its subsidiary company in Broomfield, Colorado, by combining final assembly and administrative offices in one location. The U.S. operation works with clients over cabin interior options for the PC-12 and PC-24 models.
Super Versatile Jet
Pilatus bills the PC-24 as the “Super Versatile Jet” in recognition of its above average performance on short and unpaved runways, with a takeoff balanced field length of 2,690 feet. Landing distance over a 50-foot obstacle is 2,525 feet. It is also the only aircraft in its class with a pallet-sized cargo door as standard equipment.
The 17,650-pound-max-takeoff-weight twinjet offers range of up to 1,950 nm with four passengers, or 1,800 nm with six passengers. Its maximum cruise speed is 425 ktas and it takes 30 minutes for a direct climb to its maximum cruise altitude of 45,000 feet.