in Business Aviation / Features

PC-24 takes the smooth with the rough

Posted 22 February 2019 · Add Comment

Africa’s testing terrain and challenging runways make the Pilatus PC-24 a perfect aircraft for the region, according to ExecuJet, which is the first company to operate and manage the aircraft in Africa. Dave Calderwood reports.

The first PC-24 arrived in October and will be based in South Africa at Cape Town International Airport.
ExecuJet will be responsible for its day-to-day management and operations on behalf of the aircraft owner.
The aircraft, developed by Swiss manufacturer Pilatus, has been dubbed the Super Versatile Jet due to its flexibility and ability to operate in and out of very short and unpaved runways. It received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) type certification on December 7 2017.
The PC-24 will also be available for charter and offers clients the latest in in-flight entertainment and connectivity.
With six passengers, departing Cape Town, the aircraft can reach Angola, Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. Flying from ExecuJet’s fixed-base operation (FBO) at Lanseria International Airport in Johannesburg, passengers can reach DRC, Tanzania, Kenya and Mauritius, according to Pilatus.
The aircraft was on track to add ‘rough field’ approval to its basic type certification, which will enable it to land on unimproved surfaces. It underwent a series of post-certification tests last summer, including making its first landing on a dirt strip. In Africa? No, at Woodbridge, Suffolk in the UK, where an abnormally dry summer created the perfect dusty rough dirt strip.
The PC-24 can land on a runway as short as 820 metres (2,690ft) and that includes, grass, gravel or dirt runways. That’s 2,477 airports/strips in Africa – the nearest competing aircraft can operate from just 815 African airports, according to Pilatus.
An example is Seronera Airstrip, the main airport for Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. It’s a gravel strip, with a good length at 2,280 metres but at an elevation of 1,588m (5,080ft). Such hot and high conditions, which make the air less dense, make huge demands on aircraft performance, but the PC-24 is designed to cope.
Pilatus has plenty of experience of such conditions. Its Porter PC-6 and PC-12 single-engine turboprops are masters of difficult, short, dirt strips, and the PC-24 has been designed for the same operations – just a bit faster in the air and with a longer range.
Oscar J Schwenk, chairman of Pilatus, explained how the company has achieved this. “This sort of mission would not be conceivable without the PC-24’s rugged landing gear, clever flap systems and special wing design,” he said. “The PC-24 was designed with exactly this sort of operation in mind – that’s Swiss engineering at its very best.”
Africa is lucky to get the PC-24 at this point. Pilatus planned to deliver just 23 aircraft in 2018, and closed the initial order book in 2017. A total of five are on order for Africa, though the other operators have yet to be revealed. Pilatus plans to re-start taking new orders now that it has experience of the aircraft in service.
The Super Versatile Jet tag will come in useful in Africa, as Philip du Preez, general manager of aviation at ExecuJet, reveals.
“The aircraft will be available for all charter operations, from VIP to government and tourist flights,” he said.
“The aircraft interior lends itself to various layouts through quick change options. For example, if all eight seats are not required, two can be removed through the large cargo door at the back (as seen on the PC-12 turboprop), expanding the cargo area.
“The aircraft certainly emphasises versatility and we will take the lead from our clients when it comes to servicing their needs.”
Nothing is being left to chance with the introduction of the PC-24, according to du Preez.
“ExecuJet is working closely with Pilatus Centre at Rand Airport, Germiston, the local factory representative, to ensure a seamless entry into service,” said du Preez. He explained that ExecuJet’s pilots were completing their type training at FlightSafety in Dallas, USA.
Gavin Kiggen, ExecuJet’s vice president in Africa, said: “Africa is the perfect environment for the PC-24, with its testing terrain and challenging runways, and we are honoured to be the first business aviation operator to manage the aircraft in the region.
“ExecuJet’s worldwide commitment to service excellence makes us industry-leading in our field, which is testament to all the hard work and dedication exhibited by our staff and partners.”
 

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