Helsinki-Vantaa-based Hendell Aviation has been licensed by the Finnish Civil Aviation Authority for single-engined commercial flights under instrument meteorological conditions (SE-IMC) using its Pilatus PC-12 turboprops singles. SE-IMC is a commercial transport mode recognised by the ICAO but not by all EU states.
Hendell's chief executive, Matti Auterinen, says his company's licence enables him to fly his PC-12s in most parts of Russia, Belarus, and Europe as a one- or two-pilot operation depending on whether the task is pure cargo, or passenger/air ambulance.
The European Aviation Safety Agency is framing rules on SE-IMC operations, and Auterinen admits these may eventually affect his carrier, but the effect could be positive or negative depending on the outcome. Auterinen says he tends to the optimistic, reasoning that arguing a case for departing from ICAO Annex 6, Part 1 Para 5.4, which has defined successful SE-IMC operations in North America and much of the rest of the world, is difficult to do, especially while far less reliable operations by vintage twin-piston-engined aircraft such as Piper Navajos are permitted, under grandfather rights, to fly the same trips commercially at flight levels that confine them to the worst icing conditions.
Asked whether he believes this certification is significant in Europe, Auterinen says categorically "yes". He sees the argument about operational limitations turning more on the professional skills of an SE-IMC-trained two-pilot crew than the capabilities of the airframe/engine combination, explaining: "If it's done well with a properly trained two-pilot crew drilled in well-tried procedures for single-engined aircraft, we could be looking at a new era."
With the pressurised PC-12 able to fly at flight levels close to 30,000ft, he pointed out, the drift-down capabilities give a crew a huge choice of landing options, and using the UK Royal Air Force high-key/low-key glide approach technique combined with a battery system that permits the autopilot to remain engaged, SE-IMC looks a different prospect than it did some years ago.