UK Pilatus Aircraft service center and PC-12 sales distributor Oriens Aviation is expanding the offerings at its London Biggin Hill headquarters to include pilot training for the turboprop single, starting in January. Oriens has partnered with approved training organization Oysterair to provide high-performance airplane training courses for EASA- and FAA-class ratings. The EASA PC-12 rating course caters to a wide range of experience, ranging from PPL (A) with instrument rating and a minimum 200 flight hours to the most experienced pilots.
“We know that a big obstacle for Pilatus PC-12 operations in the UK is the lack of pilots,” said Oriens founder and CEO Edwin Brenninkmeyer, adding that with the PC-12 classified as a single-pilot, high-performance airplane, traditional flight schools in the UK are lacking such expertise. “This is why we are pleased to team with Oysterair and its experienced pilot instructors.”
The move comes one year after the company acquired the former Avalon Aero facility at the airport and launched Oriens Maintenance. That operation has shown steady growth since and will be handling 20 PC-12s by next year, in addition to other aircraft types.
Oysterair also offers PC-12 single-engine turboprop pilot training at Lydd and Gloucester Airports. Its programs also include conversion from ICAO/FAA license to EASA, as well as PC-12 to PC-12NG differences training.
Biggin Hill Mx Base
AIN visited Oriens in November to see developments at the maintenance facility the company acquired from Avalon Aero in December 2017. Brenninkmeyer said the facility already had approvals for other business aircraft types including Piaggio Avantis and Beechcraft King Airs, the Hawker 1000, and some Cessna Citations, in addition to the PC-12. While he admits to wanting to grow this list further, he said, "the focus is very much on the PC-12."
With JetFly, an operator of 22 PC-12s focused exclusively on servicing its own fleet at the service center it acquired at Bournemouth Airport, this leaves Oriens as a good option for other operators who no longer have that available. "We are looking to help other customers transfer out of Bournemouth; we're hoping most of them will come to us," said Brenninkmeyer.
JetFly is "ramping up all the time," said Brenninkmeyer, "and is expecting 19 or 20 PC-12s next year." His comments came during a tour of Oriens Aviation's maintenance facility at Biggin Hill before a flight to Denham, one of JetFly's bases, northwest of London. With a hard-surfaced main runway of just over 2,500 feet, Denham is typical of airfields that the PC-12 can operate from comfortably, although Brenninkmeyer said the PC-24 jet would have to carry lower fuel or payload weights to use the facility.
JetFly's first PC-24 stopped at Oriens Aviation at Biggin Hill on October 8 as part of a European tour. The Luxembourg-based operator is the European launch customer for the type.
Brenninkmeyer said Oriens is looking "eventually to do PC-24 maintenance" and he is hoping the company will be a sales agent for the type. His focus on the maintenance side is on building the core team, with Stuart Locke set to join as general manager of Oriens Maintenance (from TAG Aviation) on January 2. "Keep in mind," said Brenninkmeyer, "this is a very new business. We started the Pilatus dealership in 2015 and it was always our intention to have a one-stop-shop for all things Pilatus." However, the PC-24 will represent "a big step up" involving taking on Part NCC (Non-Commercial operations with Complex motor-powered aircraft), for example.
Brenninkmeyer is a pilot and flies his own Cessna 210 as well as the PC-12, a Folland Gnat jet in a display team, and occasional flights in a Citation XL for a Biggin-Hill based operator. He said the PC-12 is easy to fly, comparing it to a Range Rover; and the smaller Daher TBM series to a Ferrari. He noted the six- to eight-passenger PC-12's cabin is 10 percent larger in volume (at 330 cubic feet) than the King Air 250's, although it is smaller than that of the King Air 350, "but it costs a third less to operate than the [King Air] C90."
The Oriens Aviation owner also praised Pilatus Aircraft's focus on quality, which underlines the Oriens philosophy to put Pilatus at the center of its business, although the Swiss manufacturer has no stake in the business, itself. This accounts for the strong sales record, with a fleet of more than 1,500 PC-12s flying worldwide. It also explains why the PC-24's first production run sold out so quickly before one had even been built, with customers happy to put down nonrefundable deposits. Residual PC-12 values are solid, with a "10-year-old aircraft worth 80 percent of the value of a new airplane," he said. This, he added, is also because Pilatus is "getting volumes right—they don't overproduce like other OEMs." At the same time, if Oriens (or another Pilatus sales agent) has a customer wanting an aircraft soon, he said Pilatus goes out of its way to accommodate that order.
With Oriens' own growth, Brenninkmeyer admitted to hoping the company would outgrow its current facility in four to five years' time and need more space, which Biggin Hill is almost certainly able to accommodate.
En-route to Denham Aerodrome, AIN senior editor Ian Sheppard was able to fly the PC-12 from the right seat, enjoying the ease of flying the big single-engine turboprop in the inclement weather on November 6 around London. Brenninkmeyer took control of the aircraft for the Denham circuit with its tight dogleg right turn onto Runway 06.
Additional reporting by Ian Sheppard.