The new prop’s computer-refined blade airfoil and thin chord section are more efficient at converting torque into thrust than the aluminum four-blade prop it replaces. Harder to spot are drag reduction improvements that, combined with the prop, raise cruise speed by up to 5 kt., improve runway performance, and reduce time to climb to cruise altitude by 10%.

Configured for PC-12 NG, the now standard four-screen Primus Apex Build 10 avionics suite is largely based on Epic as tailored for Dassault EASy. If you’re comfortable with the EASy user interface and color conventions, you’ll be at home in the Pilatus’s cockpit.

We flew Pilatus’s demonstrator from San Diego’s Montgomery Field. Our plan was to climb to FL 210 and fly east of Mission Bay, then reverse course to Borrego Valley Airport for airwork and approaches. With chief pilot Jed Johnson in the right seat, two passengers and cargo, zero fuel weight was 7,613 lb. and ramp weight 9,413 lb. Takeoff data from the digital AFM app on Johnson’s iPad predicted a 2,147 ft. takeoff distance over a 50 ft. obstacle using flaps 15.

We climbed at 1,700 fpm and after intermediate level offs reached FL 210 in 18 minutes, cruising at 271 KTAS – 5 kt. slower than book speed because the wind was howling west-east at 50+ kt. and even stronger at FL 210. We were fighting a mountain wave sinkhole just to stay level, and as we were on the upswing of the wave it was time to turn back to Borrego Valley for pattern work.

But by the time we descended through 8,000 ft. we had entered an invisible, wind-powered meteorological washing machine. Large clouds of sand and dust were blowing up from the desert floor, so we called it a day and headed back to Montgomery.

Overall impressions? The 2016 PC-12 NG is quieter, smoother and more capable than earlier models. It can fly at 240 KIAS on arrival for synching with jetliners arriving at major airports, but can slow down to 80 KIAS on approach to fit in with traffic at small GA airports. The cabin is comfortable, and the IFE will keep passengers occupied on the longest missions.

The PC-12 is the largest, heaviest and most expensive model in the single-engine turboprop class. But it continues to sell strongly. Pilatus will deliver its 1,400th in 2016 – more than twice the number of the closest competitor.

With single-engine turboprop commercial operations in North America becoming more popular and EASA moving toward permitting single-engine turboprop charter operations, demand for 8-plus passenger aircraft in this class is increasing. In addition, now that engine reliability is better than one inflight shutdown per 100,000 flying hours, more corporate flight departments are eying the PC-12 as a reliable, cost-effective alternative to twin-turboprops for trips up to 600 nm.

For the full Pilot Report, see the May 2016 issue of Business & Commercial Aviation. Pilatus is at Booth K115 and the Static Display.

Now that General Electric is developing its new 2,000+ thermodynamic horsepower GE93 turboprop, another variant of the PC-12 seems possible. As a result, the PC-12 is likely to remain in a class of its own for years to come.