Pilatus Aircraft Ltd. has finally unveiled the PC-24, a clean-sheet light-twin turbofan aircraft that will enter an already crowded market segment when it enters service in 2017. By then, there may be well over 7,500 light jets in service, including plenty of new models from Cessna, Embraer and Bombardier Learjet.

But, Pilatus believes the PC-24 will carve out a new niche it calls the “Versatile Jet segment,” since the all-new model will offer the short, soft-field versatility of the PC-12, a 51-in. by 49-in. rear cabin door, the cabin volume of a midsize aircraft and the cruise speed of a light jet. It will be priced at $8.9 million (2017 US dollars).

Pilatus believes the aircraft will find a home with cargo, medevac, commuter and even government special missions operators, along with its PC-12's historical customer base of high-net-worth individual owner-operators, air charter operators and small companies, among others.

Initial design studies began four to five years ago, says company chairman Oscar Schwenk told a crowd gathered for the mockup's unveiling at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (EBACE) in May, but “we've kept it very confidential.” Only a few days before the gathering in Geneva, were most sales distributors briefed on product details.

“We learned almost as much about the aircraft as the public at EBACE. I feel better about it now than before the unveiling,” says Pat Epps, head of Atlanta-based Epps Aviation, owner of Pilatus Center South. “It's six years behind the competition, but I think it will create a new niche with its 400+ kt. cruise speed and low maintenance burden. It's big. It will compete well.”

Epps says that while most PC-12 turboprops were sold to U.S. owner/operators, the PC-24 will likely do better outside the U.S., especially for service in Canada's Northwest Territories, China, Asia and Latin America.

Pilatus indeed did extensive market research before launching the new model, seeking inputs from large PC-12 fleet operators, among others.

“They sought advice from us,” says Peter Docking, aviation manager of Adelaide's Royal Flying Doctor Service, an organization that operates more than 30 PC-12s in Australia. “It's making a new niche, a little bit the same as the PC-12. The idea of a light jet with a cargo door is incredibly attractive to us. It's tough to get stretcher patients into and out of a passenger door of most light jets.”

Docking says he's also worked in the mining industry, a market segment that historically has operated STOL turboprops from “rudimentary dirt strips” during the early phases of new mine development. The PC-24 is designed to perform the same mission as smaller turboprops, carrying as many as ten passengers in a high-density seating configuration. “These aircraft fly in and fly out with shift changes. I think Pilatus is really onto something good. PC-24 is a vast improvement over a King Air or a PC-12.”