Pilatus Business Aircraft (Booth 4699) is gearing up for the 2017 arrival of its new PC-24 twinjet and continuing to make improvements to its strong-selling PC-12 turboprop single. Plans include completing the interiors for PC-24s destined for North and South America at Pilatus’s Broomfield, Col. campus, a move that will necessitate a significant expansion there.
“At our Broomfield operations, we currently employ 75 people to manage the North and South American sales and service network, craft and install the interiors of the PC-12 NG, paint the aircraft to the customer’s specification and deliver the final aircraft to our customer,” said Tom Aniello, Pilatus Business Aircraft vice president. “In 2014 we will complete over 50 aircraft at this facility, and that puts us almost at the peak of our physical capacity. We plan to conduct similar completions functions for PC-24s going to customers in North and South America and will obviously have to expand to accommodate that growth.”
Pilatus already is putting the pieces in place for training on the PC-24, recently signing an agreement with FlightSafety International for flight crew initial type certification and recurrent training. FlightSafety is currently constructing a Level D simulator for the PC-24 that will be based in Dallas, Texas. “We felt that FlightSafety offered the best combination of technology, instructors, simulators, training materials and customer service that will enable PC-24 pilots to safely realize all the performance capabilities of this innovative new aircraft,” Aniello said. For maintenance training, Pilatus is partnering with FlightSafety to develop a curriculum that will include hands-on technician training using a real PC-24, and this training will be available at a Pilatus Training Center.
Pilatus will use the existing PC-12 dealer/service center network to support the PC-24, but could add to it. “Pilatus is committed to retaining our existing global partner network to sell and service the PC-24,” Aniello said. “For over 20 years, the Pilatus Center network has done an outstanding job of distributing and supporting the PC-12 fleet. We see no reason to change the partnerships that work so well today between Pilatus, the Pilatus Centers and our customers. In fact, for the past 13 years in a row, an independent survey of customers ranked PC-12 service as the best in the industry. We also feel that the local relationships our Centers have developed with customers in their regions are very important, as many of these customers transition to the PC-24. The size of the network is continuously evaluated to ensure we are providing the best support to our customers. In areas of the world that we believe are under-served by Pilatus representation, we will seek the right partners to help us deliver a Pilatus-class experience.”
Aniello did not have any additional information on when Pilatus would re-open the PC-24 order book. At the EBACE show earlier this year, Pilatus opened and then closed the order book for the airplane after receiving nonrefundable deposits for 84 aircraft. “That quantity of aircraft represents the first three years of scheduled production. The next available unsold aircraft will deliver in 2020, but we elected to freeze the backlog at that point, rather than commit to pricing and delivery dates so far in the future. As everyone knows, the farther out you try to forecast the future, the fuzzier the picture gets,” Aniello said.
Pilatus is working with Williams International to develop an hourly engine maintenance program, and separately an airframe maintenance program for the PC-24, but details are still in the works. The PC-24 will be powered by a pair of Williams FJ44-4A engines (3,435 pounds of thrust each, 5,000-hour TBO). “We have not yet established final pricing for either the engines or the airframe maintenance,” he said. “Customers can expect direct operating costs very similar to other business jets in the same weight and power class as the PC-24.”
Meanwhile, demand for the PC-12 continues to be strong, two decades after its introduction, with more interest in fleet orders including one from California-based Surf Air for 15 aircraft and options for dozens more. “Pilatus is extremely pleased to have been selected as the aircraft supplier of choice for Surf Air,” Aniello said. “Their business model [all-you-can-fly for a fixed monthly rate] is unique and innovative, and the PC-12 NG is a key enabler for the success of their service. We will be working closely with them to ensure the first 15 aircraft provide maximum uptime to support their customers, and look forward to exercising their options for an additional 50 aircraft.
“With the proven success of the PC-12 in large fleet operations ranging from SurfAir to PlaneSense to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to Australia’s Royal Flying Doctor Service, it seems as if the PC-12 concept has reached a critical mass, and more people now understand its tremendous capabilities and benefits. We seem to be preparing more fleet proposals than we were 10 years ago, but obviously are not able to discuss them publicly at this time,” he said.
Pilatus continues to look at adding refinements and enhancements to the PC-12. “We design and plan for each of our aircraft to have a very long service and marketing life, and the PC-12 NG is no exception,” Aniello said. “Pilatus engineers and marketers are involved in a continuous R&D effort to look for ways to make the PC-12 NG faster, more efficient, more comfortable and more economical for our customers to operate. Incremental improvements present a challenging task, because the original PC-12 introduced in 1994 was a very optimized design. However, new technology is constantly being introduced in the areas of propulsion, avionics, interior design, maintainability and cabin connectivity. In-flight Internet connectivity is the most desired option right now, and we are working to offer our customers the best solution possible in terms of connection speed and cost. That technology is moving very rapidly, so we must be agile and quick to keep up with our customers’ needs.”