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Pilatus PC-12

Posted on August 18 2021

Pilatus PC-12 user+1@localho… Wed, 08/18/2021 - 21:17

The PC-12 is a single-engine turboprop airframe produced by Swiss manufacturer Pilatus, the current production variant of which is the PC-12/47E. Development of the PC-12 began in 1987, with the program unveiled at the National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA) 1989 convention and the first flight—performed by an airframe registered as HB-FOA—taking place on May 31, 1991. The type subsequently received approval from the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation (FOCA) in March 1994 and entered service in October of that year. Following the certification of the original PC-12 variant, Pilatus has subsequently received approval for three additional variants—the PC-12/45, PC-12/47 and PC-12/47E—which were certified in June 1996, December 2005 and March 2008, respectively.

A significant upgrade to the type—the PC-12/47E variant that was first marketed as the PC-12 NG—was announced at the 2006 NBAA meeting in Orlando, Florida. A version of the PC-12/47E that was further upgraded is the version that is currently produced, an airframe that was unveiled on Oct. 22, 2019, at the NBAA National Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) in Las Vegas and is marketed as the PC-12 NGX. Although that upgrade was unveiled in 2019, the flight testing of that airframe began nearly two years earlier in December 2017. In addition to the four certified variants of the airplane, a number of other upgrades have been made over the years, such as those found on the PC-12 NGX. Regardless of the differences between the variants of the type—as well as any other changes that have been made—the single type certificate for the PC-12 is held by Pilatus Aircraft Ltd. of Stans, Switzerland.

Certification Dates (Swiss FOCA)

PC-12

March 30, 1994

PC-12/45

June 4, 1996

PC-12/47

Dec. 14, 2005

PC-12/47E

March 28, 2008

Cabin Capacity, Dimensions, and Outfitting/Baggage Capacity

Despite the differences between the variants of the PC-12, all four have a common maximum passenger seating capacity of nine, in addition to the single required pilot. However, when single-pilot operations are conducted, the maximum passenger capacity can be increased to 10, with the additional passenger occupying “the right-hand cockpit seat.” On the PC-12 NG and NGX, those passengers are accommodated in a cabin that has a length of 16 ft. 11 in.—measured on the NGX from the cockpit/cabin partition to the aft pressure bulkhead—width of 5 ft. and height of 4 ft. 10 in., as well as a total volume 330 ft.3 that is based on the same area as the PC-12 NGX’s cabin length. While earlier versions of the type largely shared the same specifications—in terms of cabin length, width and volume—the height was a slightly reduced 4 ft. 9 in. The cabin also features a flat floor, which, when compared to other airframes in its class, is a feature that is unique to the PC-12. Supplementing the PC-12’s cabin space is a 40-ft.3 baggage compartment that is accessed through a pallet-size cargo door that is standard and has a height of 4 ft. 4 in. and usable width of 4 ft. 5 in. However, the PC-12 NG was promoted as having a cargo door that reverses those height and width figures. Pilatus says the PC-12 NGX is the only single-engine turboprop that includes a cargo door that is pallet-size as a standard feature, while the airframe’s cargo space is noted as being heated and pressurized. Comparatively, the respective height and width of the passenger door on the NG and NGX is 4 ft. 5 in. and 2 ft., with the location of the lavatory in the forward portion of the cabin—in comparison to at least one competing airframe that positions it in the aft portion of the cabin—is promoted as ensuring that it does not take away space from the baggage or seating areas.

The interior design of both the PC-12 NG and NGX was created through a partnership between Pilatus and BMWGroup Designworks, with Pilatus offering eight different cabin layouts for the PC-12 NGX’s cabin, including a six-seat executive layout which is noted as having a quick-change capability. Three other executive layouts are also available, including a 6-8-seat layout that adds two lightweight commuter seats that are described as being “quick-release.” Each of the seats in the eight-seat executive layout has quick-change capability, while the fourth executive configuration has the ability to feature between four and eight seats, four of which are of the lightweight commuter type. With accommodations for 10 passengers, the commuter configuration is the highest-capacity layout among those offered by the manufacturer, while a possible passenger-cargo combi configuration has seating for four passengers. Beyond carrying strictly cargo, the cargo-only configuration of the latest version of the PC-12 is promoted as also being able to serve as a special-mission platform, with an air-ambulance arrangement depicted in Pilatus marketing materials as having two seats and a pair of stretchers, as well as room for equipment.

A number of aspects of the PC-12 NGX’s cabin are influenced by the design of the company’s PC-24 business jet, including the size and shape of the cabin’s windows, which are 10% larger and “reshaped to allow more natural light in.” Also influenced by the cabin of the PC-24 are the NGX’s executive seats, which can fully recline, offer more in the way of seated headroom and which feature “taller seat backs.” Cabin comfort is also enhanced by the way that the air-conditioning system distributes air, with the design of the headliner also contributing to the air distribution being quieter and “more uniform.” The redesigned headliner also provides for more headroom and indirect lighting. Supplementing those passenger-comfort features is the cabin’s capacity to be “outfitted with the latest” connectivity, entertainment and Wi-Fi technologies, with USB ports also integrated into the sidewalls of the cabin.

Cabin pressurization for airframes built after March 2008 is automatically modulated by a “dual-channel, electronically controlled system that utilizes FMS [flight management system]-derived landing field elevation.” Should there be an issue with the automated pressurization system, the PC-12 NGX also features a safety outflow valve that is pneumatically controlled “to prevent overpressurization.” At flight level (FL) 262, the cabin altitude is 8,000 ft., a figure that increases to 10,000 ft. at the airframe’s maximum operating altitude (noted below), with those figures applying to both the NG and NGX. A related option for the NGX’s cabin is oxygen masks which are overhead-mounted and drop-down.

Avionics

The avionics hardware and features found on the early PC-12 airframes has a “standard layout” on the pilot’s side that included a pair of Allied-Signal Bendix/King EHI-40 electronic flight instrumentation system cathode-ray tubes (CRT), while the airspeed, altimeter and vertical-speed instruments are electromechanical round dials. Supplementing that hardware is a KLN 90B GPS display and receiver, which was also supplied by Allied-Signal Bendix/King and is located beneath the autopilot controls. In contrast to the electromechanical instruments and CRT used to display other information, the engine, electrical system, fuel and outside air temperature are displayed on six liquid-crystal displays (LCD). An option for earlier PC-12 airframes is a duplicate set of instruments on the co-pilot side of the flight deck.

Although the PC-12/47 retained the KLN 90B GPS, a combination of Garmin’s GNS 430/530 was also available. Also included was Honeywell’s KMD850 multifunction display (MFD), as well as an enhanced ground-proximity warning system (EGPWS).

Both the PC-12 NG and NGX utilize versions of Honeywell’s Primus Apex avionics suite, with the NG featuring Build 10. On earlier PC-12 NGs, the standard display arrangement incorporated three displays, with a fourth display—serving as the co-pilot’s primary flight display (PFD)—available as an option. However, on later PC-12/47E airframes marketed as the PC-12 NG, that fourth screen became standard. Another change made to the avionics was the replacement of the standby “peanut” gyro—which measures 2 in.—with an emergency standby instrument system provided by Thales. Additionally, the analog mechanical instruments—aside from the variant’s “wet” compass—have been replaced.

In comparison to the PC-12 NG, the avionics of the NGX were upgraded to the Primus Apex Build 12, which itself is based on Honeywell’s Epic 2.0 cockpit technology and marketed by Pilatus as the Advanced Cockpit Environment (ACE) avionics system. That system, which was “specifically developed for the” PC-12 NG/NGX and PC-24, has standard and optional features such as an autothrottle and cursor-control device (CCD), four 10.4-in. LCD, dual FMS and a touch-screen controller. As is noted above, three of the 10.4-in. displays are standard—the pilot-side PFD and “stacked” multifunction displays (MFD) located “in the center panel”—while a fourth PFD on the co-pilot side is once again an option. Also standard is a standby instrument display that is solid-state and eliminates the need for a “wet” compass, with a variety of other equipment also being part of the standard avionics installation on the NGX. Other features of the “base model” installation include a single automatic direction finder (ADF) receiver and distance-measuring equipment (DME) transceiver, Mode S transponder—which is automatic dependent surveillance–broadcast (ADS-B) capable—radio altimeter, satellite-based augmentation system (SBAS) GPS receiver and RDR 2000 weather radar that has a vertical-scan mode, as well as dual communication and navigation radios. That hardware is supplemented by other standard capabilities, equipment and features such as a Class B terrain-awareness and warning system (TAWS), coupled vertical navigation (VNAV), data recorder, 406 MHz emergency locator transmitter (ELT), reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM) capability and traffic alert and collision-avoidance system (TCAS I).

Beyond the fourth 10.4-in. display for the co-pilot, other avionics options for the PC-12 NGX include a 6-kW weather radar (in comparison to the 4-kW system which is standard), satellite communications (Aerowave 100 Inmarsat or Iridium), an additional ADS-B-capable Mode S transponder and SBAS GPS receiver, “Bluetooth connectivity between tablet devices and the FMS,” electronic charts and checklists, flight deck USB charging ports, Stormscope lightning detector and TCAS II.

Honeywell’s touchscreen controller, located in the center of the panel beneath the pair of 10.4-in. LCDs, is described by the avionics manufacturer as “optimiz[ing] the interface between aircraft and the pilot,” while also being one of several features of the ACE that reduce pilot workload. According to Honeywell, the touchscreen controller reduces pilot workload by “requiring fewer touches and speeding interaction with” data-entry boxes, menus and windows, while gripping edges and surface contours ease use in turbulent conditions. Located on the flight deck’s central pedestal, the CCD is promoted as complementing the touchscreen controller and also making avionics inputs easier during turbulence.

The NGX’s optional autothrottle is described by Honeywell as being new and “highly integrated with an autopilot that was developed for large transport-category jets,” while also being “optimized” for smoothness and stability. Noted by Pilatus as being the first airframe in its class to incorporate a dual-channel integrated electronic propeller and engine control system and digital autothrottle, the power control lever itself features “flight-phase detents” that are marketed as having the ability to lower the workload of the pilot(s) and prevent “engine exceedance[s].” Honeywell says the safety benefits of the autothrottle include decreasing the likelihood that “a pilot will fail to maintain [the] correct” airspeed during climbs, descents and while leveling off. Furthermore, the control provided by the electronic propeller and engine control system includes the monitoring of engine temperature and torque, which allows for the optimization of power throughout different flight conditions.

The above features of the ACE are supplemented by an Interactive Navigation (INAV) system, an automatic flight control system (AFCS) that is fully integrated, graphical flight planning and graphical map displays which are enhanced. An additional feature of the ACE avionics system is “full” ADS-B In capability that displays traffic that is both airborne and on the surface, as well as “special vertical separation capability [that uses] ADS-B [I]n,” the latter of which is not an option on competing single-engine turboprops. Communication capabilities include Performance-Monitored Controller-Pilot Datalink Communications (PM-CPDLC), while the navigation of the PC-12 NGX is enhanced through the incorporation of 2D airport moving maps that are highly detailed, visual-approach flightpath guidance “to any runway” that is customizable and Honeywell’s SmartView synthetic vision system (SVS) and SmartLanding/SmartRunway technologies. Those latter features—SmartLanding and SmartRunway, which are options—are promoted as preventing pilots from taking off or approaching the wrong runway, while the SmartView SVS (which is standard on the PFD) is noted as incorporating head-up display (HUD)-based performance symbology. On the ACE’s MFD, pilots can—through the vertical-situation display and vertical-profile weather radar display—access weather information including advisories and winds.

Airframe safety is further increased through the incorporation of a Crew Alerting System (CAS) that allows a pilot to display the appropriate checklist with “a one-click launch,” an emergency-descent mode (EDM) and tactile feedback technology in the event that the airplane is put into a bank angle that is too steep. The latter safety feature—which uses the autopilot’s aileron servo—incorporates “bumps” that alert the pilot(s) when the bank angle of the airplane is too steep and has the ability to return the airplane “to a normal bank angle” when it approaches “a steep roll with the autopilot not engaged,” the benefits of which include the prevention of loss-of-control accidents at low altitudes. Specifically, if the bank angle exceeds 51 deg. when the airplane is being hand-flown, the system will reduce that angle to 31 deg. However, that protection can be “overridden by pressing the touch-control steering button,” which “release[es] the aileron servo clutch.” According to Honeywell, the EDM feature functions by detecting what it calls a “critical cabin altitude,” at which point it descends automatically regardless of pilot action or inaction to the situation.

Mission and Performance

The PC-12 can be outfitted to perform missions that include air ambulance, cargo, commuter, executive transport, search-and-rescue (SAR) and surveillance. The primary competition for the PC-12 NGX is Textron Aviation’s in-development Cessna Denali, an airframe that is similar in terms of full-fuel payload (1,100 lb.), maximum passenger capacity (8-11), maximum cruise speed [285 kt. true airspeed (KTAS)], maximum operating altitude (31,000 ft.) and four-passenger range (1,600 nm). In addition to being comparable in those respects, the Denali’s cabin is planned to be of a similar size, with the height being the same as the PC-12 NGX and the length (16 ft. 9 in.) and width (5 ft. 3 in.) being comparable to that of the Pilatus airframe.

Although the most direct competitor to the PC-12 is the Denali, when the airframe was launched in 1989, Pilatus intended for it to be a “clean-sheet, turbine-powered” airplane that is capable of “match[ing] a Beech King Air B200 in almost every way” except for the number of engines and cost. While they differ in the number of engines, comparisons can be made between the PC-12 and King Air 250 based on cabin size and range, with the in-production PC-12 NGX noted as having a cabin volume that is 10% greater than that version of the King Air. With respect to those two airframes, the PC-12’s cabin is 3 in. longer than that of the King Air 250, while the Pilatus airframe is also marketed as able to accommodate one more passenger than the King Air. However, according to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and FAA type certificate data sheets (TCDS) for the types, the King Air 250 can carry four more passengers (14) than any PC-12 variant. In contrast to the certified capacities, the ferry range of the single-engine PC-12 NGX exceeds the similar range for the B200GT-based King Air 250, with the latter marketed as able to be ferried 1,720 nm at the long-range cruise (LRC) speed. In addition to comparisons to the King Air 250, the cabin volume is promoted as being comparable to business jets that are substantially more expensive than the PC-12.

Comparison: PC-12 and Cessna Denali

 

PC-12 NGX

Cessna Denali

Maximum Certified Passenger Capacity

9

8-11

Range (nm)(Four Pax)

1,803 (LRC)

1,600 (HSC)

Engine (X1)

Pratt & Whitney Canada

GE Aviation

PT6E-67XP

Catalyst

Full-Fuel Payload (lb.)

988

1,100

Wingspan

53 ft. 6 in.

54 ft. 3 in.

Length

47 ft. 3 in.

48 ft. 9 in.

Height

14 ft.

15 ft. 2 in.

Operating limitations that are common to all PC-12 variants include the maximum operating limit speeds (VMO/MMO) of 240 kts. calibrated airspeed (KCAS) and 0.48 Mach, respectively, as well as the maximum operating altitude of 30,000 ft. Based on the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW), sea-level altitude, standard conditions and a dry paved runway, the PC-12 NGX’s takeoff distance over a 50-ft. obstacle is 2,485 ft., while the landing distance over a 50-ft. obstacle—assuming the same conditions except the maximum landing weight (MLW)—is 2,170 ft. The takeoff distance of the PC-12 NG is 2,602 ft., a distance that is based only on the airframe’s MTOW. Similarly, despite the fact that the PC-12 NG has the same landing distance over a 50-ft. obstacle as the NGX, the only assumptions used to calculate that figure are the MLW and no reverse thrust. In keeping with the takeoff and landing performance figures for the two versions of the airframe based on the PC-12/47E, prior variants also had differing performance capabilities, with the PC-12/47 requiring “20% more runway than the original aircraft”—an increase that resulted in the airplane requiring more runway than the competing King Air B200—because its MTOW was increased without a corresponding increase in the power produced by its PT6A-67B engine. Beyond those takeoff and landing distances, the PC-12 is able to operate from unimproved or unpaved fields such as dirt, grass and gravel, with the airframe’s trailing-link main landing gear and large tires being suited for operations from such surfaces. In addition to the type’s ability to operate from those surfaces, all variants are also certified for operations in day and night visual and instrument flight rules (VFR/IFR) conditions, as well as in known icing conditions.

Other performance figures released by Pilatus for the PC-12 NG and NGX include a maximum rate of climb—at the MTOW and sea-level—of 1,920 ft./min., while the time to climb from sea level to FL250 is 19 min. for the NGX and 20 min. for the NG, with the latter figure based on the airplane’s MTOW. Both the PC-12 NG and NGX have a stall speed of 67 kt. indicated airspeed (KIAS), with the former basing that performance figure on the airframe’s MTOW and the latter assuming an airplane in a landing configuration, as well as at the MLW and sea level. According to Pilatus, the PC-12 NGX can climb and cruise faster despite the fact that it retains the same takeoff shaft horsepower limitation as the PT6 engines that have powered previous PC-12 variants, with the incorporation of “aerodynamic refinements” allowing for the increase in cruise speed noted below. Specific to improvements in cruise performance, the NGX’s 290 KTAS cruise speed at FL220 represents a 5-KTAS improvement when compared to the 285 KTAS cruise speed which was promoted for the NG.

As is the case with the takeoff and landing distance figures, the range figures published for earlier variants of the type—as well as for the PC-12 NG and NGX—are based on differing assumptions. For the PC-12 NG, the maximum range is 1,617 nm, a figure that is based on carrying an 800-lb. payload and four passengers, with NBAA IFR reserves and a 100-nm alternate, operated by a single pilot at FL300 and the high-speed cruise speed, in standard conditions and with the cabin in an executive configuration. When the number of passengers and the amount of payload are increased to six and 1,200 lb., respectively, the range is decreased to 1,460 nm., using the same assumptions noted above. Comparatively, when carrying four passengers and an 800-lb. payload—assuming NBAA IFR reserves and a 100-nm alternate, the airplane operated by a single pilot at the LRC speed and FL300, in standard conditions and with a cabin configured in a six-seat executive layout—the NGX’s range is 1,803 nm. When the payload is increased to 1,200 lb. and the number of passengers increased to six—with all other criteria remaining the same—the range is correspondingly decreased to 1,568 nm. At the airframe’s maximum payload, the NGX’s range is reduced to 694 nm, while the ferry range is 1,889 nm. In contrast to the more detailed assumptions for the PC-12/47E-based NG and NGX, those below for the initial PC-12 variant and the PC-12/45 are based simply on an airplane flown at 30,000 ft. with VFR reserves.

Variants

PC-12 Variants

Type Designation

PC-12

PC-12/45

PC-12/47

PC-12/47E

Commercial Designation

PC-12

PC-12 NG

PC-12 NGX

Maximum Certified Passenger Capacity

9

Maximum Range (nm)

2,217

2,210

1,450

1,617

1,803

Engine

Pratt & Whitney Canada

PT6A-67B

PT6A-67P

PT6E-67XP

Flat Rating (Takeoff) (shp)

1,200

Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW)(lb.)

9,039

9,921

10,450

Maximum Landing Weight (lb.)

9,039

9,921

Maximum Payload (lb.)

1,915

2,740

 

2,257

2,236

Usable Fuel (gal./lb.)

402.1/2,704

Wingspan

53 ft. 3 in.

53 ft. 3 in.*/

53 ft. 5 in.**

53 ft. 5 in.

53 ft. 5 in./53 ft. 6 in.***

Wing Area

277.8 ft.2

Length

47 ft. 3 in.

Height

14 ft.

                   

*Serial No. 101-683 (Excluding Serial No. 545)

**Serial No. 684 and Up

***With light-emitting diode (LED) lights installed and MSN 1776 and up

PT6A Engine

All four variants of the PC-12 are powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engine, with the PC-12, PC-12/45 and PC-12/47 utilizing the -67B variant and the PC-12/47E Serial No. 545 and numbers 1001-1944 certified for the -67P. For the PC-12 NGX—starting with PC-12/47E Serial No. 2001, but also including Serial No. 1720—the PT6A was replaced with the PT6E-67XP, one of Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PT6 E-Series engines. Despite the fact that the PC-12 is certified to be powered by three variants of the PT6, all of those engines are flat-rated at 1,200 shp for takeoff, with the “12” in the airplane’s commercial and type designations a reflection of that limitation. From a design perspective, all PT6 engines certified for the PC-12 type are free turbine, turbopropeller engines that feature a multi-stage compressor that is driven by a turbine with a single stage, as well as a two-stage free turbine which drives “the propeller shaft through planetary reduction gearing.”

Although the PT6E-67XP engine certified for PC-12/47E airframes marketed as the PC-12 NGX retains the same flat-rating at takeoff as the PT6A-67B and -67P, it does feature a number of improvements in comparison to those latter engines. Those improvements include an increase in the rated thermodynamic power to 1,845 shp and an increase in the time between overhaul (TBO) and maintenance intervals to 5,000 hr. and 600 hr., respectively, while maintenance-related labor is reduced by 40%. With regard to the amount of power produced—and despite being certified to the same flat-rated takeoff shaft horsepower—Pratt & Whitney states that the new turbine design found on the PC-12 NGX’s engine enables it to climb more quickly and operate at a greater speed, as well as providing it with a 10% increase in power at sea level when compared to the -67P engine. Improvements are also found in the -67XP’s hot section, including the compressor turbine inlet vane and power cooling, as well as the single crystal compressor turbine blades that are of the “newest design” and which have “CFD [computational fluid dynamics]-refined airfoils.” In addition to the performance improvements made to the -67XP, cabin and over-flight noise is reduced—and passenger comfort promoted as being increased—because of a new low-speed mode that reduces propeller speed from 1,700 to 1,550 rpm. However, an increase in the torque limit of the engine enables it to generate 1,200 shp at that lower rpm.

From a functional standpoint, the PT6E “replaces traditional mechanical controls and linkages” with the dual-channel control system and digital autothrottle mentioned above, resulting in a redundant system that does not have a manual backup. The incorporation of the previously discussed electronic propeller and engine control system—noted as an Engine and Propeller Electronic Control System (EPECS) on the FAA TCDS that is common to all three PT6 engines—is further described by Pratt & Whitney as making the -67XP the first general aviation turboprop engine to feature such a system. The EPECS itself is a “system of systems,” which is “linked to fuel and prop[eller] controls, stand-alone electronic engine control and engine-trend monitor unit and sensors, among other components.” Other benefits of the EPECS include the ability to start or stop the engine with a single button—which Pratt & Whitney promotes as protecting “against hot and hung starts”—as well as how it controls the blade pitch. For the latter, in lieu of a propeller governor and “mechanical control linkages,” the EPECS controls the pitch of the propeller blades through the electronic control of the engine’s propeller control unit, which in turn alters the blade pitch hydraulically through the use of oil pressure. Another performance benefit of the “optimized” digital control is that it enabled the maximum cruise power limitation to rise to 1,100 shp on the -67XP, in comparison to a 1,000-shp limitation for the -67B and -67P. For the former PT6A engine, the 1,000-shp limitation also applies to the maximum continuous and climb power, a limit that is increased to 1,200 shp on the -67B and -67XP for those conditions. A redundancy built into PT6E that benefits the EPECS is the fact that engine’s fuel control unit incorporates an “integral permanent magnet alternator” that can provide power to the EPECS’ components should the airframe have a complete electrical failure.

The Pratt & Whitney Canada engines power a Hartzell propeller that has either four or five blades, with the five-blade propeller only being found on certain serial numbers of the PC-12/47E. On the PC-12, PC-12/45 and PC-12/47, the Hartzell propeller models are the HC-E4A-3D/E10477K or the HC-E4A-3D/E10477SK, both of which have aluminum blades. PC-12/47E Serial No. 545, as well as Serial Nos. 1001-1575, also have a four-blade aluminum propeller—the HC-E4A-3D/E10477SK—while airframes including and subsequent to Serial No. 1576 have a five-blade carbon-composite propeller. Except for Serial No. 1720, PC-12/47E airframes from Serial No. 1576-1944 have a HC-E5A-3A propeller, with airframes including and subsequent to Serial No. 2001, as well as Serial No. 1720, incorporating the HC-E5A-31A/NC10245B. In addition to being made of carbon fiber—which helps to make it 7-lb. lighter—the five-blade propellers found on the PC-12 NG also have scimitar-shaped blades. The aerodynamic improvements made to the NG’s five-blade propeller—including the fact that the blade airfoil is “computer refined” and has a chord section that is thin—mean that it can more efficiently convert torque into thrust than the four-blade propellers found on previous variants, and can do so during all phases of flight. Despite those differences in materials and number of blades, all Hartzell propellers certified for the PC-12 type have a common 105-in. diameter.

PC-12 and PC-12/45

The PC-12/45—which received Swiss certification in June 1996—introduced a number of changes, including an 882-lb. increase in the variant’s MTOW, with the variant’s 9,921-lb. MTOW (equivalent to 4,500 kg.) being reflected in the designation of the variant. Airframes manufactured prior to the changeover in production to the PC-12/45 can be brought to that standard through the upgrade of the “landing gear and rolling stock in accordance with Service Bulletin 04-001.” From the outset, the PC-12 airframe was designed to incorporate an air-stair in the forward part of the fuselage, a large cargo door in the aft part of it and a flat-floor cabin, with the airframe’s design not bound by the “wing spar carry-through structure” of the competing King Air.

PC-12/47

Certified by Swiss aviation authorities in December 2005, the third PC-12 variant—the PC-12/47—incorporated a variety of improvements, including a further increase in MTOW to 10,450 lb., a limitation that has been retained by the PC-12/47E-based PC-12 NG and NGX. Among the benefits of that weight increase is that, in comparison to the first two variants of the type, the airframe can be operated with full fuel tanks and a full complement of passengers. When carrying full fuel, this variant is capable of accommodating a payload greater than 1,000 lb., an increase of more than 500 lb. when compared to the PC-12/45.

PC-12/47E (PC-12 NG)

Although many specifications were retained by the PC-12/47E-based airframes—such as MTOW, MLW and useable fuel capacity—substantial upgrades were made to six systems. The electrical system is one of those that saw major changes made, with that system described as being “one of the only dual-redundant, split-bus electrical systems to be fitted to a single-engine turboprop aircraft.” Assuming a single pilot and an executive configuration, the basic operating weight of this variant is 6,782 lb.

When combined with the benefits of the five-blade propeller, the drag-reduction improvements incorporated into the PC-12 NG—which were subsequently carried forward to the NGX—increase the cruise speed by 5 kt. while also allowing it to depart from runways that are “slightly shorter” and “climb to cruise altitude 10% quicker.” The drag improvements made to the PC-12 NG involve the antennas, cowl exhaust vent, flaps and flap track fairings, main entry door and oil cooler cover.

PC-12/47E (PC-12 NGX)

Despite the commonalities between the PC-12 NG and NGX (MTOW, MLW, usable fuel capacity and dimensions), as well as being based on the same variant of the PC-12 type, changes made to the NGX increase its basic operating weight by 21 lb. to 6,803 lb., a weight that includes a single pilot and a six-seat executive configuration. Although the basic operating weight was increased on the NGX, both the maximum payload (2,236 lb.) and maximum payload when loaded with the maximum fuel capacity that is common to all variants of the PC-12 (988 lb.) are reduced. According to the EASA TCDS, another change made to PC-12/47E airframes including and subsequent to Serial No. 2001 is a “revised fuel system” that allows the utilization “of fuel without additives,” while the basic architecture and means of operation of the fuel system are “maintained.”

On both the PC-12 NG and NGX, composite materials are incorporated into parts of the airframe including fairings, landing gear doors, the nose cowl—which is a fiber/Nomex honeycomb composite sandwich—“the dorsal fin extension forward of the vertical stabilizer and ventral fin on the tail cone,” and winglets and wingtips.

The characteristics of the airframe that allow it conduct operations at unimproved fields include landing gear with low-pressure tires, while ice protection is provided to various parts of the airframe and engine through a number of systems. A distinction between the landing gear of the NG and NGX is the means by which it is extended and retracted, with the NG’s landing gear system utilizing an electrically powered (28-volt) 2,800-psi hydraulic pack “to actuate the [landing] gear.” Comparatively, the NGX utilizes “electric motors and linear-motion jackscrews,” with the gear itself “held in place by motor brakes.” For ice protection, deicing boots are found on the leading edges of the horizontal stabilizer and wing, while anti-ice protection for the airframe’s probes, static ports and windshields is provided by electrical heaters. Ice protection for the engine inlet lips is provided by ducted exhaust heat and a particle separator can also be used “in the engine air intake duct.”

Pilatus promotes the reduced operating costs of the NGX, including the previously mentioned increase in engine TBO to 5,000 hr., which is supplemented by an increase in scheduled maintenance intervals to 600 hr. When it was announced in 2019, Pilatus noted that the PC-12 NGX would have a base price in 2020 of $4.39 million, while an airframe with an executive configuration would increase that price by nearly $1 million to $5.369 million.

Special-Mission Airframes

In addition to accommodating executive and commuter layouts, Pilatus also promotes the PC-12’s ability to serve as a special-mission airframe for a variety of operators, with features such as the cabin space and size of the cargo door, fuel efficiency, loiter time, payload, performance and range promoted as making it well-suited for such operations. The PC-12 NGX is also noted for its ability to be reconfigured for different missions that range from passenger and cargo transport and SAR, to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), while a utility door—which is an option—allows for “airdrop and jump operations.” That jump and utility door measures 25 X 39 in. and is described as being “a door within a door” because it is incorporated into the airframe’s standard cargo door, with its potential uses including the air-dropping of relief supplies, as well as the “deploy[ment] [of] parachute specialists.”

A special-mission version of the PC-12 intended for use in law enforcement, ISR, SAR and special operations missions is marketed as the PC-12 Spectre, a version that can be equipped with an electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensor and operator console. When equipped with the PC-12 NGX Spectre ISR package, the airframe incorporates that sensor to provide a 360-deg. aerial view “through a mission operator station and tactical flight officer.” Pilatus also notes that the cabin can be equipped with a variety of optional communications equipment and workstations, depending upon the needs of the operator. Supplementing the value of the PC-12 NGX Spectre’s communication and imaging capabilities to military special-operations users is the amount of time that the airplane can loiter, with some of the same capabilities being of value to law enforcement operators. For law enforcement agencies, the airframe’s useful capabilities go beyond passenger transport to also include “airborne operation control” and border protection, with this type of user also able to utilize an operator station that has “full control” of the previously mentioned EO/IR sensor. In addition to being displayed on the operator console, the images derived from the sensor can also be shown on the cockpit MFD. Law enforcement operations are also promoted as benefiting from the performance capabilities of the NGX, including the maximum operating altitude and “long standoff distance,” the latter of which makes it “virtually undetectable” to those which it is surveilling.

As was previously mentioned, the cabin can also be configured to serve as an air ambulance, with the cargo door and flat-floor cabin enabling the quick loading of patients in such situations. The airframe’s ability to operate from unpaved fields that are often short—as well as the cabin volume and ability to be rapidly reconfigured, cargo door and amount of payload that can be carried—are marketed as being beneficial to operators conducting humanitarian missions. Through the installation of a pair of hatches in the NGX’s floor, an additional mission that the airframe is capable of performing is aerial mapping and cartography, with associated “mission profiles including cadastral mapping,” environmental studies, oil and gas exploration and urban planning. Pilatus states that those hatches—which can be replaced with floor panels to allow for cargo and passenger transport—enable the use of large-scale survey cameras as well as hyperspectral, light-detection and ranging and multispectral scanners that “enable[e] photography and scanning at the same time.”

Program Status/Operators

All variants of the PC-12 have been produced alongside other Pilatus airframes at the company’s production facilities located at the Buochs Airport in central Switzerland. In addition to commercial and private operators of the type, governmental users include the U.S. Air Force, which designates its PC-12 airframes the U-28A.

References

  • AWIN Article Archives
  • Honeywell, Pilatus and Pratt & Whitney Commercial Materials
  • EASA TCDS (PC-12)
  • FAA TCDS (PT6A/E)
Channel
Business Aviation
Market Indicator Code
ALL
Article page size
10
Profile page size
2
Program Profile ID
10359