Unbelievably, it was exactly 30 years ago that Pilatus revealed its PC-12 utility turboprop program at NBAA’s convention in Atlanta, the prototype making its maiden flight two years later. A first major upgrade was signaled at the 2006 NBAA meeting in Orlando in the form of the Next Generation PC-12 NG – so after 1,700 deliveries and 7.5 million flight hr., it is high time for a radical overhaul to be implemented.

Now it can be told: the PC-12 NGX has been in development for more than three years, with flight testing having started in December 2017. NGX is on target to be EASA and FAA certified in December, priced at $4,390,000 in basic form, or $5,369,000 with typically equipped executive interior. Customer deliveries will begin in the second quarter of 2020, and in fact it is the first production machine that can be examined at Henderson Executive Airport this week, prior to the start of a wide-ranging demonstration tour.

In short, NGX brings the latest engine and avionics technology to the turboprop world and provides passengers with a completely redesigned cabin, with larger windows, new executive seats and other features borrowed from the PC-24 twinjet. Furthermore, hourly direct operating costs other than fuel have been reduced by at least 9% as a consequence of extended airframe-, systems-, and engine-maintenance intervals.

Detailed improvements begin up front, with the engine. Of course, it’s the proven Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6, but the latest E series, with advanced technologies including General Aviation’s first dual-channel integrated electronic propeller and engine control system, providing full digital envelope protection; precise and intuitive engine control; reduced pilot workload; and optimized power over the whole sortie.

More than 100 engine parameters are continuously monitored, adjusted and recorded, the data transmitted wirelessly upon landing, to give operators the timely information they need to remain one step ahead of the health of their engine.

The PT6E-67XP engine produces 1,825 thermodynamic shp; is flat-rated to 1,100 shp for cruising flight; and will be certified to fly without fuel anti-ice additive. An increase of 10% in cruising power enables the PC-12 NGX to reach 290 KTAS. With the advanced aerodynamic and material technologies incorporated in the new engine, the NGX maintains the payload-range performance of its predecessor.

A low prop speed mode – another ‘first’ in this market sector – reduces propeller rpm from 1,700 to 1,550. Consequently, noise is diminished for those both inside and beneath the aircraft, while the electronic propeller and engine control system maintains engine power to make consequent performance degradations virtually negligible. Further boosting economy, P&W will be offering a 5,000-hr. time-between-overhaul, and requiring hot-section inspections only on condition.

Those owners opting to participate in the new Eagle Service Plan (ESP) offered for the PT6 E series engine can maximize the value of their aircraft and obtain at least a 15% reduction in hourly engine operating costs, while enjoying comprehensive maintenance and full foreign object damage event coverage – a first in the general aviation market.

 “Building on the legacy of the PT6 family, the new engine is a leap forward in engine control and data management systems,” says Maria Della Posta, president, Pratt & Whitney Canada. “Consistent with our customer focus, we are also excited to be raising the bar in engine maintenance services, offering an unparalleled level of protection and services under our new Eagle Service Plan. [This] speaks to the strong spirit of collaboration and innovation between our companies.”

Honeywell is also contributing to the party in no small measure. Its Advanced Cockpit Environment (ACE), powered by Epic 2.0 technology, incorporates a new touch-screen avionics controller with integrated bezel contour grips, which stabilize the pilot’s hand in turbulence.

Says Jason Bialek, product line director for integrated flight decks at Honeywell Aerospace, “What we focused on was the fact that this is a single-pilot, generally single-pilot-owner/operator type airplane. And so Honeywell has always been very focused on safety and efficiency. The reason we do that is because we essentially take off features from what we delivered for our high-end, large business jets, and we do what we can to deliver that to the single-pilot operator without complications.”

And what will the PC-12 NG pilot find when she straps an NGX to her back for the first time? “They’re going to love the fact that it’s similar to what they are already used to,” assures Bialek, “so it’s not going to be different to the point he or she is uncomfortable. [What they] will find is a familiar cockpit, which is even more powerful…and it’s adding more VFR reference points – railways and roads – and other color and resolutions for the terrain on the map. So they’ll be quite familiar with it.… [Adaptation] won’t take them any time at all.”

The PC-12 NGX also features the turboprop segment’s first fully integrated digital autothrottle as an option, further assisting the pilot in high-workload environments. Other OEMs might disagree with the claim of primacy, but Bialek explains, “The reason we’re saying that we’re first is that this is the first time we integrated autothrottle with a FADEC that controls completely the engine and the propeller RPM.

Standard safety features in the ACE include a new emergency descent mode that provides an extra layer of security for high-altitude operations, and tactile feedback that helps pilots avoid unintentional excessive bank angles. “We’re very excited about that,” Bialek declares. “Single-engine turboprops operated by nonprofessional pilots can sometimes end up in situations where they’re [approaching] an unfamiliar airport, especially at night…and before they know it, they might be at a 60-degree bank angle…. Your plane will keep you from doing that. It will warn you.”

Additional avionics features and functionality include brighter, more vivid color flight displays; night-mode charts; pilot-defined visual approaches; high-resolution 2-D airport moving maps; Honeywell’s SmartLanding and SmartRunway awareness systems; 3-D intelligent audio with ATC playback and Bluetooth interface; electronic checklists linked to crew alerting system (CAS) messages; worldwide graphical weather; support for European PM-CPDLC mandates; and faster database loading.

And Pilatus’ engineers have made their own contributions to the NGX. Passenger experience is enhanced by cabin windows that have been enlarged 10% and reshaped to allow more natural light in, and give passengers a better view out. The rectangular form of the new windows and their dark windshield surround trim-were inspired by the PC-24 and provide a useful recognition feature for the new variant.

Upgraded executive seats provide more headroom, full-recline capability, improved lumbar support, and modern design and ergonomics. They are designed with quick-release attachments so that pilots can rapidly and easily reconfigure the cabin without technical support. In addition, the headliner has been redesigned to provide indirect lighting, more uniform and quieter air distribution, and increased headroom. Integrated sidewall USB ports provide additional passenger amenities.

Owners are offered six different Designworks interiors for the executive PC-12 NGX, while fully customized bespoke interiors and exterior paint schemes are available.

Building upon engine economies, airframe scheduled maintenance intervals have also been extended to 600 flight hr., and hourly direct operating costs for the engine and airframe reduced by at least 9%, depending on annual utilization. For intensive operators, the extended maintenance intervals enable significant additional cost savings by incurring less downtime and fewer trips to and from a maintenance facility.

Further borrowing from the PC-24 and its CrystalCare nose-to-tail maintenance program, Pilatus is offering similar support for the NGX to provide all scheduled and unscheduled maintenance of the airframe, engine, avionics, systems, and propeller, including all mandatory and recommended service bulletins, freight, consumables, normal wear items and AOG recovery service.

Says Markus Bucher, CEO of Pilatus Aircraft, “We are excited…to finally reveal the new PC-12 NGX. To maintain the PC-12’s leadership in the general aviation marketplace, we continuously seek innovative solutions which benefit the safety, comfort and productivity of our customers.

“The PC-12 NGX is a showcase for the advanced technology collaboration between Pilatus, Pratt & Whitney Canada, and Honeywell. Together, we took the best and made it even better. What’s more, our customers do not have to wait years into the future to enjoy these benefits – the PC-12 NGX is here today.”