Pilatus boosts capacity of PC-12NG production

 - September 30, 2008, 7:24 AM

Fresh from the announcement by Pilatus (Booth No. 1397) that is posting another record year for sales of its single-engine utility PC-12 turboprop, the Swiss company said it is set to deliver more airplanes next year and in 2010 than it will this year despite a rise in the base price of the PC-12NG (Next Generation). Pilatus this year opened a new factory with room for two assembly lines.

Launched at NBAA in 1989 and certified in 1994, the PC-12 was designed to compete with multi-engine turboprops such as the Beech King Air 200. It also aimed at small business jets such as the Cessna CJ1, which is faster but has less range and a smaller cabin. Pilatus delivered 90 PC-12s in 2006 and 92 last year, successfully continuing the upward trend of the last five years.

Daniel Kunz, the PC-12’s sales and marketing director, told NBAA Convention News that Stans, Switzerland-based Pilatus plans to increase deliveries of the PC-12 to 100 this year, about 110 in 2009 and around 120 aircraft in 2010. Despite the weak dollar exchange rate–the U.S. currency having lost 20 percent of its value against the Swiss franc in a year–Kunz said he remains confident about the company’s ability to stay successful. “All future PC-12s will be produced to Next Generation standards,” he said. “Production is sold out until the end of next year and, in some regions, even until the end of 2010,” he said.

The first seven- to nine-passenger PC-12 Next Generation aircraft has a 15-percent more powerful engine and provides better hot-and-high performance with the Pratt & Whitey Canada PT6A-67P powerplant replacing the previous version’s PTA6A-67B. The -67P provides a power output of 1,845 shp maximum for takeoff and 1,744 shp in climb/cruise, de-rated to 1,200 shp, compared to 1,605 shp for the -67B version. The PC-12 has a maximum cruising speed of 280 knots with a maximum NBAA IFR range of 1,573 nm with three passengers.

The flat rating remains at 1,200 shp for takeoff compared to 1,000 shp in the previous model. The new engine cannot be retrofitted to older PC-12s. Differences between the two engines include single-crystal compressor turbine blades, a new compressor configuration and a dual-generator accessory gearbox to accommodate two 300-amp generators.

The PC-12NG features a roomy 330-cu-ft cabin, a glass-panel, fully integrated Honeywell Primus Apex avionics developed for Pilatus from the Primus Epic system–similar in digital architecture to that of the Dassault Falcon EASy cockpit–and optimized for single-pilot operation. The cockpit layout and cabin were both designed by BMW Group DesignworksUSA. Other improvements include a dual-zone environmental control system and automated cabin control system that does not require pilot input.

The base price of the PC-12NG for 2009 is $3.48 million with a typically equipped airplane in executive configuration available for approximately $4.1 to 4.2 million. The base price for the 2010 model rises to $3.78 million, with a fully equipped executive-configured airplane fetching around $4.5 million, depending on the selection of individual optional equipment. Almost 790 PC-12s were delivered between the turboprop’s entrance to the market in 1994 and the first delivery of the NG version this past spring. North and South America account for about 40 percent of sales while Europe’s share rose to 31 percent with Asia increasing to 19 percent. Australia and Africa contributed approximately 5 and 4 percent, respectively. Kunz said he does not anticipate a significant change in the geographical distribution of the production with “demand still being strong around the world.” Pilatus also builds P-21 military trainers and continues to produce C-6 turbo transports.

Founded in 1939, the company employs more than 1,300 people at its headquarters, making it one of the largest employers in central Switzerland. It is the only Swiss company that develops and produces private aircraft. It also produces training aircraft.

Pilatus, this spring, announced it will build a 79,000-sq-ft assembly plant to meet production demand. The total $27 million investment includes the construction of offices and a visitor center. Pilatus also has operations at three independent subsidiaries in Altenrhein, Switzerland; Adelaide, Australia; and Broomfield, Colo., which outfits “green” PC-12s flown across the Atlantic from Switzerland. The OEM has its own certified maintenance facilities in Stans, Berne, Altenrhein and Geneva, as well as in Broomfield.