Switzerland special: PC-21 builds on example of PC-12

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Pilatus will deliver its 800thPC-12 turboprop early this year, while the first Next Generation example of the design will be rolled out in the second quarter. The success of the single-engine model has played a significant part in the manufacturer's recent success, with 115 to be built at its Stans facility near Lucerne this year.

PC-12 sales routinely account for more than half of Pilatus's annual turnover, and provide a constant flow of orders compared to its cyclical military trainer business. Other work includes the production of components for types including the Airbus A340 and A380, plus Boeing commercial aircraft.

Pilatus's PC-12 order book has been almost completely sold out for 2008 and 2009, and many delivery slots have also already been assigned for the following year's production. "We have a very significant order book, and we're at full capacity," says Jim Roche, vice-president of Pilatus's government aviation business unit.

To cope with the high demand, a new build hall is nearing completion at Stans. Representing a SFr27 million ($26.4 million) investment, the new facility should be completed by mid-May. Once opened it will increase the efficiency of PC-12 production, and provide spare capacity for the PC-21 trainer programme.

Pilatus has previously received orders for a special mission variant of the PC-12 dubbed the Spectre, but the type's commercial success and a 24-month lead time means it is not a market the company is actively pursuing.