NARRATIVE BY ADDO ADDISON & IMAGES BY MARK ROURKE WITH ADDITIONAL IMAGES KINDLY SUPPLIED BY PILATUS
Pilatus Aircraft Ltd
Pilatus Aircraft Limited was formed just after the start of the Second World War in December 1939, and even though the country was neutral for the duration of the war, the Swiss Government identified a need for training and maintenance of indigenous aircraft. The site chosen was an existing maintenance facility in the heart of Switzerland at Stans, in the region of Nidwalden close to its namesake Mount Pilatus.
Pilatus Aircraft Ltd are the only Swiss company to develop, produce and sell aircraft throughout the world. Over 1,800 people are employed at the Headquarters in Stans and nearly 1,200 around the world. At Stans, staff conduct the Research and Development work, as well as production of the PC-7 Mk.II, PC-12 and the PC-21. In 2013 the PC-24 was born; when trials are completed it will be the first jet engined business plane to be built by Pilatus.
Of the employees there are approximately 80 apprentices, most of who will go on to work for Pilatus once their apprenticeships are completed.
Pilatus Aircraft Ltd subsidiaries
As well as the company Headquarters at Stans there is an independent subsidiary at St. Gallen-Altenrhein airport, Switzerland named Altenrhein Aviation Ltd (AAL). Here they overhaul, maintain and modernise both the Pilatus PC-6 and PC-12. Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd (PBA) was established in 1996 in Broomfield CO USA. Over 65% of PC-12’s that come off the Swiss production lines at Stans are finished to the customer’s specifications at this location. PBA are responsible for the marketing, sales and servicing of both the North and South American markets.
In 1998 Pilatus Australia Pty was set up as a PC-12 sales and marketing support centre. Its remit is the Australian, New Zealand and Western Pacific areas.
2013 saw the formation of Pilatus Aircraft Industry (China) Co. Ltd located at Chongqing, South West China, a modern port city on the Yangtze River, which is approximately a 2 hour flight from Hong Kong to the North West. Chongqing is responsible for the manufacture of structural components for the Pilatus PC-6 Porter.
Pilatus Aircraft Ltd has over 40 independent sales and service centres around the world that assist Pilatus Aircraft Ltd to provide a Swiss style first-class customer service at local levels.
The first Pilatus built aircraft was the SB-2 Pelikan which was manufactured in 1940. It was designed for use in rugged terrain such as the Swiss Alps. A few years later the Pilatus P-2 and P-3 were built, both types being flown by the Swiss Air Force and were really the aircraft that bought the world’s attention to Pilatus. In later years the P-3, a tandem two seat aircraft, went into service with Swissair (in 2015 this is now called Swiss [Air Lines]).
The next was the P-4; built in 1948, this was the predecessor of the PC-6. The sole aircraft produced was owned by Pilatus was written off when it crashed. 1972 saw the production of an all metal Glider, the Pilatus B4/PC-11. These Gliders were produced at Stans; the B4 was a standard class glider suitable for Group Operations and Competition Pilots, but also suitable for high altitude flying, cloud flying and unrestricted aerobatic training. In June 1978 the production rights were sold to the Japanese company NIPPI, Pilatus had built and sold in excess of 300 of these all metal gliders prior to the sale to the Japanese.
The real breakthrough for Pilatus was the PC-6 Porter; this aircraft is still in production today (April 2015) and is renowned as an exceptionally reliable rugged aircraft and perhaps most famous for its STOL [Short Take Off & Landing] capability. It is told that this aircraft can take off in less than 195 metres in certain conditions.
The maiden flight of the PC-7 took place on August 19th 1978; over 400 of this type were made and sold in twenty one countries. The PC-7 is of monocoque construction with a tandem two seat configuration with a low wing and powered by a single Pratt & Whitney engine. Forty PC-7’s were sold to the Swiss AF in 1981 and to date over 450 have been sold in 21 countries around the world.
The PC-9 first flew in May 1984, it is also a two tandem seat low winged aircraft of monocoque construction and powered by a single Pratt & Whitney engine. The PC-9 was designed as a more powerful version of the PC-7 and is used exclusively in the training role.
The PC-9 is used by the following Air Forces around the world; Swiss, Royal Saudi, Royal Australian, Royal Thaiand the Slovenian AF. Since 1985 over 250 airframes have been produced and as well as the main military operators, are also used by the civilian community in a training role.
In current production at the Stans facility are the follow aircraft; the PC-7 Mk.II, of which seventy five of these aircraft have been ordered for the Indian Air Force. These aircraft have the latest technology installed including a full “glass” cockpit and is fitted with a HUD (Head Up Display) that enables the trainee pilots to simulate what it will be like to fly in a jet aircraft. The new look of the PC-7 Mk. II is that it has a “stepped up” position of the rear pilot position and thus the canopy has been adjusted to accommodate this modification. The PC-7 Mk. II is powered by a 700 shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-25C engine which turns a four bladed Hartzell propeller. Basic overall dimensions are; overall length 10.18 m (33ft 4in) wing tip to wing tip is 10.19m 33ft 5in) and overall height is 3.26m (10ft 8in).
A limited number of PC-9’s are upgraded to PC-9M standard at Stans. Very much like the PC-7 Mk.II the PC-9M has a stepped rear pilots position which required the canopy to be remodelled. The PC-9M is powered by a more powerful Pratt & Whitney PT6A-62 engine giving 950 shp. The PC-9M’s dimensions are almost the same as the PC-7 Mk.II. To date there have been over 150 airframes built and delivered to customers like the Swiss Air Force. In its training role the PC-9M can be used for Ab Initio training, Basic flying training and Advanced flying training.
With the exception of the PC-6 and PC-12, all the aircraft that Pilatus has produced over the years have been training aircraft. The PC-21 is called the Next Generation Trainer by Pilatus; it is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68B engine which gives 1600 shp through to the five graphite bladed Scimitar propeller. The cockpit is of tandem design with a stepped rear pilot’s position, both pilots sit on 0-0 (zero-zero) ejection seats and the cockpit is fully pressurised. It has a low wing which offers excellent all round visibility to the trainee pilot. At first glance the PC-21 appears to be slightly smaller than the aircraft it is intended to replace, however it is slightly larger than the PC-7 Mk.II and the PC-9M. The PC-21 basic overall dimensions are as follow; length 11.23 m (36ft 11 in), wing tip to wing tip it is 9.11 m (29 ft 11in) and overall height is 3.75 m (12ft 4in). The PC-21 has been ordered and deliveries have been made to the following customers; Swiss Air Force 8 aircraft, Republic of Singapore Air Force 19, United Arab Emirates Air Force 25, Saudi Air Force 55, and the Qatar Air Force 24.
PC-12 production continues apace at Stans and deliveries include customers such as the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service as well as numerous private customers globally.
The PC-24 has yet to fly but has been witnessed being ground run on the airfield at Stans. The data in regard to the anticipated first flight date has been obtained directly from Pilatus Aircraft Ltd. Pilatus have named this aircraft the Super Versatile Jet, combining the practicality of a Turboprop with the cabin size of a Medium Light Jet and the performance of a Light Jet. The PC-24 is going to be powered by two Williams FJ44-4A engines giving a maximum take off thrust of 3,400 lbf each. According to the data sheet from Pilatus the PC-24 will be certified for single Pilot operation using the Pilatus ACE™ avionics system. It has a large cabin area of 14.2 m³ (501 ft³), it has a large cargo door at the rear port side of 1.3 x 1.25m (51 x 49 in) for ease of loading. The PC-24 has dual-wheel main landing gear designed for operations from paved and unpaved surfaces together with optimized wing geometry combining excellent short field performance with competitive cruising speed.
The performance data supplied by Pilatus shows the following;
Maximum certified altitude 13,716m (45,000ft)
Rate of climb 4,075 fpm
Balanced field length 820m (2,690ft)
(MTOW, ISA, sea level, dry paved runway)
Max. Cruise speed at FL300 min. 425kTAS
Range with 4 passengers (800lb payload
With 100 nm + 30 min VFR reserves etc) 3,610 Km 1,950 nm
Landing distance over 50 ft obstacle 770 m 2,525 ft
Stall speed 81 kIAS
MTOW 8,005 kg 17,650 lb
MLW 7,370 kg 16,250 lb
Max Payload 1,135 kg 2,500 lb
With full fuel 415 kg 915 lb
At the time of writing it is not known if the PC-24 has made it maiden flight.
Following assembly of the different types of aircraft, they are test flown at Stans, and then once certified for flight, they are flown directly to the customer or if they wish, the customer collects.
To achieve this Pilatus has over twenty (20) former Military and Civil Pilots, only the Military Pilots are chosen to (deliver) fly the PC-7 Mk.II and PC-21’s.
Our thanks to Jerome at Pilatus for his time while conducting our visit to Pilatus Aircraft Ltd.