The Pilatus PC-12 NG is a multi-mission turboprop aircraft certified for single-pilot operation. This guide looks at its features for prospective owners.
Pilatus Aircraft launched the PC-12 NG in 2007. It currently carries a $4.05-$5 million new price and an average price of $3 million for a used model. It carries up to nine passengers, cruises at speeds of up to 285 knots and has a fuel burn of 66 gph.
As a flight instructor and pilot who flies business jets for a living, I have frequently flown what many have referred to as the “swiss army knife” of aviation.
The Pilatus PC-12NG is a low-wing, single-engine pressurized turboprop built by Pilatus Aircraft in Switzerland. It is famed for its safety, low operating costs, high speeds, large cabin and low cabin noise.
The PC-12 NG is the third variant of the PC-12 family (the first Pilatus airplane expressly designed for the civil market), that was first put into production back in 1991.
Unveiled in 2006 at the NBAA convention in Orlando, the PC-12NG (“Next Generation”) was given dozens of new features and improvements beyond just an increased cruise speed and range.
Principally, the PC-12 was designed to build upon the versatility of its predecessor, making it perfect for many different kinds of operators, who were unable to use the original Pilatus PC-12 variant due to other restrictions.
Due to this versatility, the PC-12NG fleet is used for everything from VIP transport, to search and rescue, to cargo transport and even as an air ambulance. Whilst the majority of its operators are civilian, the PC-12NG is used by a variety of military operators too, in particular the Finnish Air Force.
Like its predecessor, the Pilatus PC-12NG is equipped to fly from both paved and unpaved runways, without risking passenger safety. This gives it access to well over 21,000 airports and airstrips across the world. Through this, it’s able to point-to-point, hub-to-hub and hub-to-destination depending on the mission parameters.
When laid out to transport passengers, the cabin can fit nine seats comfortably and has a lavatory. The nine seats can be removed and reconfigured for cargo, which can be loaded through the rear, or it can be reconfigured to carry stretchers for medevac operations.
The PC-12 NG, like its predecessor, is optimized for cargo and passenger platforms. While passengers and crew have the front airstairs to board, the cargo door in the rear is extra large and able to load pallet-mounted cargo. The cargo door is also strategically placed, and easily accessible by an approaching forklift without endangering the wing or the tail.
Flight testing of the Pilatus PC-12NG began in 2007 and the aircraft entered full scale production the following year. The first customers received their aircraft in May 2008. Even well over a decade and a half later, the PC-12NG continues to enjoy strong sales and new models are delivered each year. Total production the entire PC-12 fleet stands at well over 2000.
The designers had a simple goal, and that was to emulate all that had worked in the original 1991 PC-12 model while upgrading the aircraft according to market demand for more speed and better cost factors.
To this end, the company decided that having it as a stable single-pilot platform was the best option since keeping reliability and operability with just a single crew member could significantly reduce costs while increasing payload.
To do this, they revamped the avionics and increased digitization and automation.
The Pilatus PC-12NG that came out in 2007 is based on the original PC-12 that came out in 1991. The NG is technically the E model, but the NG was used to indicate “Next Generation.”
The primary reason for the change in marketing nomenclature was to indicate that the cockpit had been converted from the conventional steam gauges, characterized by the Bendix-King instruments, to a glass cockpit using the Honeywell Apex package.
The Honeywell Apex package that drives the glass cockpit is specifically designed for the Pilatus PC-12NG. This includes the primary flight displays, multifunction displays and Smart View systems. With the avionics and automation upgrade, pilots can set numerous non-flying responsibilities, like pressurization, to auto, and focus on flying the aircraft while the automation handles the systems.
This strategy has proven to reduce fatigue, increase performance, minimize cost and maximize efficiency. While the NG's successor, the NGX, features an Electronic Propeller and Engine Control System (EPECS) to help reduce pilot workload in addition to a FADEC system to help control the turboprop engine.
Further upgrades to the avionics and automation of the NG don’t go quite so far. Instead, it has a robust engine monitoring system that monitors and records all engine inputs and performance, easily downloadable by the flight department for mission readiness and cost-effectiveness.
The PC-12 NG also comes with winglets to increase aerodynamic effectiveness and a torque limiter to keep the engine flat rated at 1,840 shp, limited to 1,200 during take-off. This gives the PC-12 NG a consistent climb rate for much of its ascent to its service ceiling.
To keep costs low, Pilatus designed the airframe for a longer life, extending it to 20,000 hours. They also extended it further, to 50,000 hours, if the buyer enrolled in the Pilatus Life Extension Program.
The PC-12 comes with a robust trailing link landing gear that is electrically actuated. The previous model was hydraulic. All this was to make sure that the sound levels in the cabin were kept to a minimum.
In attaining that goal, the prop used on the PC-12 NG was also upgraded. The scimitar-shaped five-blade Harzell not only slices the air more quietly than its predecessor, but it also pushes more air, giving the NG up to a ten-knot advantage.
The design is intended to keep the Center of Gravity (CG) static during the course of each flight. What you take off with is what designers want you to land with. And since the only thing that changes during a flight is the quantity of fuel, fuel is managed in a way that their CG does not change even as the fuel is burned off.
To keep the pilot free from constantly having to rebalance the fuel, the Pilatus PC-12NG automatically and constantly pumps fuel across the wing tanks to keep it laterally balanced.
The decision to own a Pilatus PC-12NG is not just about its features and style, it is also very much about the price of acquisition and cost of appropriate scheduled maintenance.
A brand new PC-12 NG rolling off the factory floor can be purchased for $4.05 million. Typically equipped, that can go up to $5 million. When considering the price of the PC-12 NG, it is also wise to consider its competition and its resale value.
The resale value for the PC-12 NG has been relatively stable. There are a number that come up for sale annually, but that is to be expected since this plane has been around for almost two decades.
The current resale value for the PC-12, the NG’s predecessor, hovers at about $800,000. When the PC-12 was first launched, it was pegged at a price point close to $2,000,000. Not considering inflationary issues, the loss in value over that two-decade period seems to suggest that the PC-12 seems to be adept at holding its value.
If we draw a correlation we can see that the PC-12 NG that sold for $5 million in 2008 is now asking for $4 million in the secondhand market with 8000 hours of total time, and a TBO of 3,500 hours for its engine.
There is one extra layer that you should consider as a potential buyer. The price elasticity of the PC-12 series, including the PC-12 NG has to also be seen from the fact that there are more than 25 aircraft of these two models at sale at any given time over the course of the year.
This should point to a conclusion that the PC12 holds its value well and that purchasing a new one does not hold a downside risk of a diminished resale value in the near term.
Fixed Operating Cost
Once you understand the mission parameters that necessitate the purchase of the PC-12 NG, then the operating cost can be seen in a new light. If you are looking for an aircraft to commence an air charter service, then you will be looking at a robust platform with a higher potential for long-term profit than a similar platform for the same mission.
However, the PC-12 NG has what many might call extreme diversity in terms of the missions it flies, all of which carry vastly different costs to operate. But for cost evaluation purposes, we will look at the aircraft as flying 400 hours a year, and a flight department of three crew.
The flight department costs for three crew members will include training, recurrent training, salaries, and benefits. While a type rating is not required to fly the aircraft, it is recommended that pilots be trained at a facility to get to know all the operating procedures, avionics, automation, and nuances of the aircraft.
Pilots for the PC-12 begin at a base salary of $36,000 and with 1000 hours of in-type experience, can expect $60,000 per annum with an 8% annual pay increase.
Flight training averages $12,000 per crew member per year to make sure all crews are current and up to date on systems and procedures.
Including benefits and average per diem figures, crew costs per aircraft per year are $240,000. It is possible to run the flight department with just two crew if your frequency of use is lower.
Insurance for the aircraft depends on your operation and whether you insure the hull along with insuring yourself for liability. It is best to have both. The liability premium for this aircraft averages $1000 per $1 million cover while hull insurance averages $1 in premium for every $100 hull value, depending on deductible.
The premium will also depend on the qualification of your flight crew.
Assuming you took no deductible and insured the aircraft for its full replacement value (and assuming your crew was qualified with over a thousand hours in type, and fully trained,) it will result in $28,000 in annual premiums for the PC-12 NG.
Another operating cost you should be prepared for is the fixed cost of hangaring the aircraft. A shared hangar to shield away from the elements, or an individual hangar is best. Leaving it out in the elements is not the best option. The national average for an individual hangar that can accommodate the PC-12 is $18,000 annually.
All this adds up to $276,000 per year.
Variable Operating Cost
The Pilatus PC-12NG is not just versatile in its mission parameters, but it is also cost-effective. From single pilot operations to quick turnaround potential, and low fuel burn characteristics, the PC-12 NG is easier to turn a profit even in market downturns.
The PC-12 NG has an average fuel burn of 66 gph over a three-hour flight. This average will change depending on the kind of flying your aircraft typically makes. If you constantly fly short hops of less than an hour, the fuel burn will inch up to a somewhat higher 70 gph, but if you fly low weight across longer stretches, it could go down to 60 gph.
The national average for Jet A fuel with Prist is currently $6.00. The PC-12 NG requires a Prist additive. Prist is just the common brand name crews and line operators use to refer to diethylene glycol monomethyl ether.
The hourly cost of fuel for the PC-12 NG is $396.
There are two overhaul costs associated with the powerplant. The first is a hot-section inspection that will happen at 1800 hours. A hot section inspection typically costs $40,000. To manage costs and expenses, maintain a reserve that accumulates this hourly cost so that there are funds waiting to pay for the hot section when it comes.
Similarly, you will need to conduct a full overhaul of the engine every 3600 hours and this will cost $500,000. Adding these costs and spreading them over three overhauls and an engine change gives you a good idea of how much to set aside.
An engine change would likely happen at the third overhaul and cost $1 million. In total two overhauls, three hot sections, and the price of a new PC-12 NG engine will cost $2,120,000. That is for 10,800 hours. Set aside $197 per hour for this.
You will also have to think about annual inspections, 100-hour inspections, and a progressive every 50 hours. A good rule of thumb for a Pilatus PC-12NG is to budget $30 per hour to capture all these costs.
In total, your maintenance reserve of $197 and your maintenance cost of $30 per hour add up to $227.
Assuming you fly 400 hours a year, your fixed cost which is $276,000 per year will average to be $690 per hour. This number will go up or down depending on how much you fly. Putting a thousand hours on the aircraft in a year will bring the hourly cost down to $276. For now, we will assume a model where you fly 400 hours a year, costing you $690 per hour.
With that, your total cost of $690 per hour for fixed costs, added to $227 for maintenance and reserves, and added to $396 per hour for fuel will give you a total hourly cost to operate of a remarkably cheap $1,313.
Where speed is concerned the Pilatus PC-12NG has a sweet spot between comfort, expedience, and economy. 209 KIAS gives you a long-range cruise, siping Jet air from its cavernous tanks. While setting the power slightly forward and squeezing out 268 knots will get you there father if you are not interested in fuel burn.
There is significant power to spare when it comes to the single-engine setup. It’s hard to believe when most flight crews are used to operating a twin. But the take-off power, flat rated to 1,200 horsepower, is more than enough to launch the aircraft on a high-density altitude day.
Part of the reason is the new props that come with the NG, the five-bladed scimitar Hartzels convert the same horsepower to more thrust. Rotation happens at 82 knots with 15 degrees of flaps and 76 knots with 30 degrees of flaps. The plane is smooth enough that it accelerates to Vx of 120 rapidly once the wheels come off the ground.
The Pilatus PC-12NG is surprisingly stable, even in heavy crosswinds, making this an aircraft that is robust and well-suited for the northern latitudes where winds are heavy. A max cross-wind of 30 knots requires no flaps used for take-off, while 15 degrees of flaps requires the maximum cross-wind to be no more than 25 knots.
The recommended cruise climb speed for the PC-12 NG is 135 knots without any flaps while the maximum operating speed at gross weight is 177 knots IAS.
Approach speeds that set up the plane well on final or after the Final Approach Fix without flaps is 120 knots. But at this speed be prepared for a long landing. These airspeeds are only considered when you have residual ice on the airframe. A more typical Vref is 85 knots with full flaps. It is best to cross the threshold with the PC-12 NG at Ref +3.
On average, the Pilatus PC-12NG burns 66 gallons per hour. That’s a number that is used among the flight crew for quick calculation. But in reality, the different phases of flight burn considerably less or considerably more depending on numerous factors including weather and load.
On a standard day, it takes the PC-12 NG 23 minutes to climb from sea level to FL280. The fuel burn for this leg is 190 pounds or 32 gallons. The horizontal distance flown across the climb is 66 nautical miles
The fuel burn for the PC-12 NG at FL280 is 60 gallons per hour. This results in 260 knots TAS. Assuming zero wind, 2.5 hours of flight will cover 650 nautical miles and burn 150 gallons.
The descent phase of the PC-12 NG takes 14 minutes and covers 66 nautical miles. It burns 15 gallons of fuel in that time. For a 782 nautical mile flight, the PC-12 NG burns 197 gallons of fuel and takes a few minutes over three hours to complete, giving the Pilatus PC-12NG a fuel burn average of 66 gallons per hour.
About THE AUTHOR
After spending years watching every video I could find about flying, I finally scratched the itch and got my pilots license. Now I fly every chance I get, and share the information I learn, here.Read More About Joe Haygood