At its introduction in the early 90s the Pilatus PC-12 was a revolutionary offering to the business aviation market. Combining a pressurised and high performance single-engine turboprop with a large cabin, flexible interior, versatile operational capability and lower operating costs than its contemporary twin-engine competitors, the PC-12 was well positioned to take on and disrupt the turboprop market. Initial sentiments towards singe engine operations have been largely dispelled, owning to a stellar safety record and over eight million fleet flight hours and counting.
Almost three decades on and with over 1800 aircraft delivered the PC-12 has certainly established itself as a yard stick with which other turboprops are measured. In a world where change is constant, Pilatus Aircraft Ltd have continually strived to improve and evolve the PC-12 platform, which has brought about the latest and most technologically advanced iteration to date: The Pilatus PC-12 NGX. Upgrades on the PC-12 NGX appear throughout the aircraft.
Heart of Advancement
At the forefront of the PC-12 NGX upgrades lies the heart of any aircraft… the engine. The legendary dependable Pratt & Whitney Canada (PWC) PT6 has been revolutionised with single-lever power control and full-authority digital engine controls (FADEC) in the all new PT6E-67XP engine. The PT6E-67XP is a digital engine and digitally connected to optimize performance. All performance parameters are recorded in flight and automatically sent to PWC for analysis to ensure the engine is always operating as required and to alert to any potential issues as early as possible. With a simple push-button integrated, the digital electronic engine control (EEC) unit applies its logic to control and monitor the start-up sequence on the engine to prevent any dreaded hot starts and protect the engine inflight from over torques, surges, and flameouts. The 67XP engine increases the NGX’s available power by 10 percent over the previous 67P engine. This allows more thrust in climb and cruise and increases the NGX’s published maximum cruise speed to 290 knots—five knots faster than earlier PC–12 models. Operating costs have also been lowered with a the 67XP’s 5000-hour time between overhaul, as well as on-condition hot section inspections.
Advanced Cockpit Environment
The PC-12 NG already featured an advanced glass cockpit avionics package with the Honeywell Primus APEX suite. Honeywell and Pilatus have taken the PC-12 NGX avionics a step further, incorporating features from the Pilatus PC-24 as well as new options to offer the Honeywell Advanced Cockpit Environment “ACE” on the NGX. Comparable in technology and functionality to large size business jets, the ACE avionics suite puts the NGX at the forefront of automation and capability, all whilst being optimised for single pilot operations. A digital Auto-throttle option reduces pilot workload to a minimum in all phases of flight. By setting the desired airspeed the auto-throttle governs and responds with the power required, whether in climb, cruise, or descent. Other new options and features include a new touch screen controller for FMS inputs, tactile feedback when flying with autopilot disengaged, emergency descent management, electronic checklist with CAS message linking, 2D maps with ADS-B in, visual approach setup and Honeywell’s Smart Runway and Smart Landing to name but a few.
Passenger comfort is an important factor in any business aircraft, and Pilatus have taken it seriously with a number of improvements to the PC-12 NGX cabin experience and interior. Reshaped cabin windows, inspired by those on the PC-24, and 10% larger than previous PC-12 models allow more natural light into the cabin and provides pax with better views inflight. The NGX Executive Seats have been redesigned to be taller and narrower than previous offerings. This provides more headroom for passengers and more comfort with improved lumbar support. All executive seats are now supported with quick-release attachments allowing the interior to be changed out quickly depending on the flight and cargo/baggage requirement. Forward facing seats also feature full-recline capability. A redesigned headliner and improved air-conditioning system allows for more uniform air distribution in the cabin and ensures better warming or cooling for passenger comfort. Pilatus’ partnership with BMW Designworks on interiors continues and offers customers a variety of eye-catching and stylish packages where finishes can be customised to individual tastes.
Pilatus and their vendor partners have collaborated to make the PC-12 NGX one of the most advanced turboprop aircraft on the market today. With a strong factory order backlog, customer reception for the NGX has been well received. As has been the case Pilatus will continue to innovate and improve and expect further enhancements to the PC-12 NGX well into the future.