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Pilatus PC-12

A flying Swiss Army knife

Hulking Pilatus PC–12s have become so common at large and small airports around the world that it’s easy to forget how revolutionary they were in 1991 when the prototype first flew.
Photography by Mike Fizer.
Zoomed image
Photography by Mike Fizer.

Swiss manufacturer Pilatus believed there was a market for a big, pressurized, single-engine turboprop with a massive cargo door, short- and rough-field capability, a maximum cruise speed of more than 280 knots, and a range of more than 1,500 nautical miles.

With its 1,200-horsepower Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67 engine, the PC–12 was a flying Swiss Army knife capable of performing a wide variety of utility, corporate, and military missions with the economy of a single engine.

The result has been a homerun for the Swiss firm and more than 2,000 PC–12s have been delivered to individuals, air charter firms, small airlines, air ambulance companies, and military customers. The fleet has an admirable safety record over the years with many millions of hours flown.

Although the PC–12 was originally marketed as a more economical alternative to multiengine models such as Textron Aviation’s Beechcraft King Air, the Swiss airplane’s enduring worldwide popularity has pushed PC–12 prices far above its rivals. Textron has now joined the fray with its own big, pressurized, turboprop single—the Denali (first deliveries scheduled for 2027). And Pilatus is likely to face competition from itself as modification firms such as Blackhawk upgrade the existing fleet of used PC–12s.

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Dave Hirschman
Dave Hirschman
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.

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