Almost lost in the announcement of the next-gen airplane at NBAA was one huge detail: the PC-12 NG would be outfitted with a new, more powerful version of the Pratt & Whitney PT6 turboprop engine, the PT6A-67P model, giving it 15 percent greater thermodynamic power, thanks to higher heat tolerance due to improved compressor and turbine blade design. The new model is approved for 1,200 shp continuously, compared with the previous model's five-minute limitation at 1,200 shp with a maximum of 1,000 shp thereafter. The increased power allows for impressive performance gains across the board. More on that in a bit.
Not necessarily new but welcome on a more powerful and better-equipped airplane are the advanced external lighting options, which integrates with the TCAS to automatically activate recognition lights when traffic is detected. And the anti-servo tabs on the ailerons make for greatly reduced roll forces and a more pleasant hand-flying experience.
Without question one of the most compelling things about the PC-12 is its cabin, a huge space that is comparable not to turboprop singles or very light jets but to midsized business jets. It's a big airplane by single-engine standards, it goes without saying, but it's substantially larger than light bizjets, too. The first time you see it on the ramp is an eye opener.
PC-12s are ferried green across the Atlantic from Pilatus' headquarters in Stans, Switzerland, and are "completed" at Pilatus North America's facility in Denver. The vast majority of them are outfitted with a six-place executive interior (that is, six seats in the cabin in addition to the two pilot seats). And what was already a premium interior is nicer than ever, rivaling those same midsized bizjets in terms of quality and style.
The new interior was dreamed up by BMW Designworks. Customers can select their interior choices from a range of attractive leathers, fine wood veneers and fabrics, creating interiors that are comfortable and stylish while being practical and highly reconfigurable. There are improvements in lighting, environmentals (including the dual-zone climate controls, a first in the PC-12), and with available satellite phone and other entertainment options, the cabin amenities are very good. And one of the nicest features is a private forward lav with hard doors separating it from both the cabin and the cockpit.
Flying the PC-12 NG
Things were heating up at Jeffco as we taxied out to 29L, the shorter and narrower (7,000 feet long by 75 feet wide) parallel runway -- the 9,000-foot runway was closed at the time. Of course, we would need just a small part of that shorter runway, both going and coming back in.
On the way to the runway Peter explained the takeoff configuration safety utility, which identifies unsafe takeoff conditions and warns the pilot of them. Sitting safely in one spot we checked it out by deploying full flaps and advancing the power. As we neared takeoff power a voice came on over the speaker and headsets warning "NO TAKEOFF, NO TAKEOFF, NO TAKEOFF," and a warning flashed on the PFD. It would have been impossible to miss.
Once I had the airplane properly configured for takeoff, I lined it up and advanced the power smoothly as we accelerated briskly down the runway. With three of us aboard (Pilatus' Marketing VP Mike Haenggi was relaxing in the back) and half fuel, we were light by PC-12 standards, and our rate of climb of nearly 2,000 fpm reflected that, despite the mile-high altitude and warmer-than-standard day. We asked for but didn't get a climb directly to 28,000 feet, though the airplane could have done that, even at max takeoff weight on a standard day. The airplane's ceiling is 30,000 feet, and the new NG model is RVSM-ready as delivered. And it can get up to its ceiling in a hurry. A climb direct to 30,000 feet takes 26 and a half minutes. For a single-engine airplane, that's a remarkable figure.