Swiss firm could produce alternative versions of PC-12 after its success in US market

Pilatus is looking into expanding its civil range after the success of its PC-12 single-engined turboprop in the USA. The Swiss manufacturer is in the early stages of new programme development, which could include a jet-engined or twin turboprop version of the aircraft.

Ignaz Gretener, Pilatus's vice-president for general aviation, says any new development is "several years off" as the company, based in Stans, near Lucerne, is focusing research and development on its new military trainer, the PC-21.

The PC-12 was developed using PC-7 profits and the original business plan is based on a break-even target of 500 aircraft delivered before any new civilian model is launched.

Gretener says that, although traditional thinking at Pilatus is that a twin constitutes "one engine too many", a twin PC-12, possibly designated the PC-16, is one of many options under consideration. A major hurdle for the PC-12 is the continuing ban on single-engine commercial operations under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) in European Joint Aviation Authorities member states. Georg Langhans, regional sales manager for the PC-12 in Europe, says if IFR single-engine operations were allowed, the market for the PC-12 could double in Europe.

A jet-powered version is also being considered in response to demand from operators in remote US locations. Pilatus says future development is more likely to refine the fuel efficiency and range of the present design and would retain the large rear cargo door.

Pilatus delivered the last of six PC-12s to the central division of the Royal Australian Flying Doctor Service last week. The division, covering South Australia and the southern half of the Northern Territory, now has nine PC-12s. The Flying Doctor programme is the largest operator of the aircraft; four others work in Western Australia and three in Queensland.

Source: Flight International