Strong demand for the single-engined Pilatus PC-12 turboprop has prompted the Swiss manufacturer to increase annual production from 48 to 60 aircraft.

The move is likely to strengthen Pilatus Aircraft's market value, following the decision by parent Oerlikon Burhle Holdings to sell the Stans-based manufacturer as part of restructuring plans (Flight International, 2-8 December, 1998).

According to Pilatus, the growth in orders is due in part to the decision by international aviation authorities, including those of Australia, Canada and the USA, to lift their long-standing ban on commercially operated single-engined turboprops. The aircraft are increasingly deployed to serve remote destinations by regional airlines, including Canada's Kelner Airways, the first commuter carrier in North America to operate the PC-12 from its site at Goose Bay, Newfoundland.

California-based start-up carrier Community Air plans to begin scheduled services soon with eleven 10-seat Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67B-powered PC-12s, and has options on a further 21. Four aircraft are lined up for delivery by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, US fractional ownership provider Alpha Flying, which operates four PC-12s for its Nashau, New Hampshire-based PlaneSense programme, plans to take delivery of two extra aircraft by the end of August. The company, the first of its kind to offer shares in single-engined turboprops, is evaluating starting at two more US hubs, including one in the Michigan area, from which up to 10 more PC-12s will be operated.

Source: Flight International