Pilatus Aircraft is venturing into a new market segment by launching the PC-24, a single-pilot, midsize twin-turbofan aircraft that will be able to operate from short, unpaved fields yet cruise at 425 kt. It will be priced at $8.9 million.

The Swiss manufacturer touts the new model as unique, the first in a new “Super Versatile Jet” segment; its closest conventional competitor is the Embraer Phenom 300. Similar to the Brazilian jet, PC-24 will use aluminum alloys for the primary airframe, limiting composites to secondary structures.

Although unveiled at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE), held in Geneva May 21-23, initial design studies on the aircraft began 4-5 years ago; Pilatus Chairman Oscar Schwenk says of the project, “We've kept it very confidential.” Most sales distributors were briefed on the aircraft just a week prior to the unveiling.

The newest Pilatus is the company's first production twin and will expand its offerings, which include the PC-21 military trainer and PC-12 business aircraft, both powered by single, Pratt & Whitney PT6A turboprops.

Similar to the PC-21, the new twin will have a low-drag airfoil that was developed in-house.

To achieve the balance of high-speed, high-altitude cruise and low-speed approach-and-landing performance, the wing will have modest sweep, inboard and outboard fowler flaps and large ground spoilers. Estimated stall speed at maximum landing weight is 81 kt. and projected landing distance is 2,525 ft. Standard takeoff field length is 2,690 ft. and 4,430 ft. when departing a 5,000-ft. elevation, ISA+20C airport.

“It's not easy to fly to [Flight Level] FL450 and have the spoilers and flaps needed for short-field operations,” says Schwenk.

Extensive wind-tunnel tests were conducted at Prague's Aerospace Research and Test Establishment, the National Aerospace Laboratory of the Netherlands and Ruag's facility in Switzerland. The final results were not compiled until early this month.

The PC-24's short-runway performance will enable it to use 1,300 more airports around the world than the Phenom 300. And its ability to operate from unpaved facilities—“It can land on all kinds of surfaces, except water,” Schwenk says—will give it access to 21,000 more runways globally than those available to aircraft restricted to using paved runways. A gravel kit will be fitted to the nosewheel to deflect debris away from the engine inlets and the wing flaps will be armored for protection from debris thrown back by the main landing gear. Notably, the jet will be fitted with dual-wheel main gear with low-pressure tires and anti-skid brakes.

The 501-cu.-ft. cabin is 5.1 ft. high, 5.6 ft .wide and 23 ft. long from the cockpit-to-cabin partition to the aft-pressure bulkhead. The cabin windows will be the largest in the midsize-jet class. Maximum cabin altitude is 8,000 ft. at the aircraft's 45,000-ft. maximum cruising altitude. There is a fully enclosed forward cabin, externally serviced lavatory and 51-90 cu. ft. of internal luggage capacity, depending on placement of the aft-cabin partition.

Interior volume will be bigger than that of a Citation XLS+, but smaller than in a Hawker 900XP. Unlike most midsize aircraft, though, it will have a flat floor plus both a forward passenger and a 51 X 49-in. rear cargo door, a feature similar to that on the PC-12. Fitting the aircraft with a dropped aisle would have offered more center-aisle headroom, but it would have hindered cargo handling.

Pilatus believes the aircraft will find a home with cargo, medevac, commuter and even government special missions operators, along with its traditional customer base of high net-worth individual owner-operators, air charter operators and small companies. Six cabin layouts will be offered accommodating 6-8 passengers in executive configuration, 10 in commuter seating, a pure cargo configuration and a 50/50 passenger-cargo combination.

The PC-24 will be able to climb directly to FL450 in 30 min., Schwenk asserts, and it will achieve its maximum cruise speed of 425 KTAS at FL300. Pilatus says maximum payload will be 2,500 lb. and the aircraft should have a tanks-full payload of 915 lb., enabling it to fly four passengers 1,950 nm at long-range cruise. However, based upon preliminary specifications released by Pilatus, Aviation Week believes tanks-full payload will be 847 lb.

The aircraft will be powered by two Williams International FJ44-4A turbofans, rated at 3,400 lb. thrust for takeoff. The auto power reserve will boost thrust to 3,600 lb. with an estimated flat rating of ISA+11C. Williams also is engineering a new noise-attenuating inlet for the nacelle along with a passive thrust vectoring system that will use the Coanda effect to deflect thrust 2-3-deg. upward at takeoff for better aircraft pitch-control response. And it is developing a proprietary low-idle speed mode that will enable the right engine to serve as a low-noise auxiliary power unit.

The advanced cockpit environment flight deck, or ACE, will feature Honeywell's second-generation Apex avionics, with four 12-in. landscape displays in a T configuration, Laseref inertial reference and attitude/heading reference systems, enhanced-ground-proximity-warning and traffic-alert and collision-avoidance systems, along with autothrottles, localizer-performance with vertical-guidance (LPV) approach and graphical flight planning.

Parts now are being fabricated at the Pilatus factory in Stans, Switzerland. Rollout is slated for mid-2014 and first flight is set for fourth-quarter 2014. Three aircraft will be used in a 2,500-hr. development program leading to FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency certification in early 2017, followed immediately thereafter by entry into service.

The company is not accepting deposits until rollout of the first prototype, even though Schwenk says customer interest has been keen.

Although a rough-field jet market has never been identified, the same was said of the market for a pressurized, single-turboprop, cargo/passenger aircraft—the market of the PC-12, of which more than 1,100 have been delivered.

“Pilatus always has been a trend-setter,” says Schwenk, insisting that the PC-24 will become as emblematic of its homeland as the snow-capped Alps and precision timepieces.

Pilatus PC-24 Specifications
Characteristics
Wing Area 332.6 sq. ft.
Wing Loading 53.1 lb./sq. ft.
Power Loading 2.60 lb./lb.f.
Seating 1+7/11
Dimensions (ft./meters)
External
Length 55.2 16.8
Height 17.3 5.3
Span 55.8 17.0
Internal
Length 23.0 7.0
Height 5.1 1.6
Width (maximum) 5.6 1.7
Width (floor) 3.9 1.2
Thrust
Engine 2 Williams Intl FJ44-4A
Normal Takeoff Thrust 3,400 lb.*
TBO 5,000 lb.
Weights (lb./kg)
Maximum Ramp 17,750 8,051
Maximum Takeoff 17,650 8,006
Maximum Landing 16,250 7,371
Zero Fuel 13,450 6,101
BOW 10,950 4,967
Maximum Payload 2,500 1,134
Useful Load 6,800 3,084
Executive Payload 1,200 544
Maximum Fuel 5,953 2,700
Payload with Maximum Fuel 847 384
Fuel with Maximum Payload 4,300 1,950
Fuel with Executive Payload 5,600 2,540
Ceilings (ft./meters)
Certificated 45,000 13,716
All-Engine Service 45,000 13,716
Engine-Out Service 26,000 7,925
*3,600-lb.-thrust APR rating Source: Pilatus