Pilatus PC-12 Versus the World
While the system feels very different from Garmin's popular G1000 suite, common in aircraft of this class, once you get the hang of using it — which does take a bit of time — the capability is nothing short of remarkable. Pilatus here benefits from a decade of work by Honeywell and its partners in creating Epic. It's a big-airplane feel in a turboprop single, but pilots will be delighted with Apex.
Muscle and Beauty
That night, my three fishing buddies and I met up again at a dive along Route 30 to have a few beers and swap lies. In the process, we engaged in some flight planning. We'd head out of Scappoose the next a.m. At that point we'd top the tanks on the 12 with jet-A and ride the prevailing westerlies nonstop to Austin, a five-plus-hour, 1,500 nm trip we'd likely fly at 270 at best true.
The Oregon morning dawned wide and blue. After rousting ourselves we headed for bacon and eggs at the local eatery named, so far as we could figure, "Restaurant," and then made a quick stop at Dutch Brothers for coffee and more coffee and headed to the airport.
With all of the gear and full fuel, we were at just under 10,000 pounds for takeoff from Scappoose. Good thing we had not caught more fish.
Flying the PC-12, as opposed to learning how to manage the systems, was not a particularly challenging transition for me when I was first introduced to the airplane nearly a decade ago, and I felt comfortable in the big Boeing-style pilot's seat in the 12 as we started up and taxied out from Scappoose (a great grass-roots GA airport, I'd like to add).
Apex (along with Jed, who is possibly the highest-time PC-12 NG pilot on the planet) guided me through the bizjet-style preflight checks. Starting the PT6 is an easy affair, or maybe I'm just getting used to flying turbines, a thought that makes me smile. Taxiing out, I remembered how remarkably maneuverable the PC-12 NG is, though it's important to remember how big a wingspan — 53.3 feet — it has.
At the departure end, I advanced the power lever and felt the airplane accelerate quickly. The PC-12 NG more levitates than rotates as it reaches flying speed. We were climbing strongly through the cool air despite our heavy weight and quickly got cleared by the controllers right through what would have been our intermediate altitudes as we headed directly up to FL 270. It took us 24 minutes to get there.
Fuel management is one of my favorite parts of flying the PC-12 NG, because there is essentially none required. The tanks are self-balancing. If one tank gets a bit heavy, the system automatically sends from it until things are once again in harmony.
At FL 270 we were initially seeing 265 knots while burning just under 400 pounds per hour. The airplane we were flying, the factory demonstrator, was not yet RVSM certified, so we weren't able to head up to 290, but Jed told me that he typically sees a savings of around 50 pounds per hour at that altitude with a slight reduction in cruise speed.
The trip back to Austin was a pleasure. We experienced headwinds of 100-plus knots going out of Denver to Seattle earlier in the week, whereas on this flight, our tailwind did the trick, averaging 20 to 40 knots.
After crossing the Rockies and gazing down at the Wasatch Front before Salt Lake below, we continued our cruise to Austin. As usual, we got slam-dunked on the arrival, to the point where our cabin rate of descent was a whopping 650 fpm compared with our over 2,000 fpm actual rate of descent — just one more reason to love pressurized airplanes.
My last landing of the trip back in Austin was anticlimactic and telling. We kept our speed way up on the way in to keep the controllers happy. Speed control in this airplane is an absolute piece of cake. Pick your speed and make it happen using a combination of speed brakes, power reductions and gear. We landed long ("long" being a relative descriptor when it comes to the PC-12 NG) and made the reverse high-speed turnoff. Back on the ramp, we divvied up the salmon. Man, was it good eating. Not as good as the fishing or the flying, but still pretty darned good.