Flying Around The World in a Pilatus PC-12
Flying around, is a dream a lot of aviators have, but only a few get to achieve it. I have explored the possibilities and realized it is not impossible to take off:
- from Nigeria, head to Dubai UAE;
- from Dubai to Mumbai, India;
- from Mumbai to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia;
- from Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta, Indonesia;
- from Jakarta to Darwin, Australia, then to Brisbane;
- from Brisbane, Pacific Ocean crossing starts to Nouméa, New Caledonia;
- from Nouméa to Fiji;
- from Fiji to Pago Pago, American Samoa;
- from Pago Pago to Los Angeles, US Pacific Ocean Crossing ends;
- from Los Angeles to Mexico City, Mexico;
- from Mexico to San Juan, Puerto Rico;
- from San Juan to Recife a Brazil;
- from Recife will be South Atlantic crossing to Monrovia, Liberia;
- from Monrovia back to Nigeria.
This is more of just a rough sketch, there can be adjustments, especially on crossing from Brisbane to Los Angeles, a less courageous I would go through Japan, then into Alaska.
You can do it in any aircraft of your choice, the need to do it in the PC12 is just a personal obsession with the newest model, the PC12NGX.
If you want to understand why we are obsessed with circumnavigating the world in this airplane, we need to dig a little bit into the details of the design.
The Pilatus PC12 is a single-engine turboprop airplane, “highly iconic”, it is loved and highly respected by aviators, a perfect example of Swiss excellence in engineering.
The PC12 made its first appearance in 1994, when Pilatus wanted to create a plane that would fit a new market that is not served by an existing aircraft, a type that would be the first single-engine aircraft, with a large cabin, that would be capable of flying at high speeds, across long distances.
It wasn’t an easy project, Pilatus took considerable risks when creating this plane, the design was complex, particularly because of their target to keep the balance between versatility, simplicity, easy maintenance, comfort, and flexibility.
The design of this plane is simple; a straight wing with only ailerons and flaps, a T-tail, and a robust tricycle landing gear. On the nose, you get the latest versions of the Pratt Whitney PT6.
One of the things that set it aside is the huge door on the side of its fuselage, which looks like something you will see on a cargo plane, which makes it easy to load oversized cargo.
This unusual feature (well not so unusual because the TBM has a huge door too) so this feature made the PC12 boast quite a wide range of capabilities.
It is highly versatile, it can be used as a corporate plane, air taxi, air ambulance, light cargo aircraft, or anything you can think of.
Okay, now, we are not talking about the PC12 in general, but the newest model; the PC12NGX.
Why is Pilatus PC12NGX such a perfect plane to circumnavigate the world?
Let’s start with the most important thing from a technical standpoint the engine. The PC12 NGX uses the all-new Pratt Whitney PT6E-67XP, and it is full of new features which include FADEC and autothrottle.
The FADEC system greatly facilitates the work of the pilot, lowering workload while providing greater levels of control and responsiveness. Engine power was increased, which raised the speed and climb rate of the aircraft.
The new engine is a bit shorter, wider, and heavier than its predecessor. Pratt Whitney completely redesigned the electronic internals and control.
The power plant is filled with sensors and its automation level was taken to the limit, the computer now takes care of a considerable part of the work that used to be carried out by the pilots.
Just like the previous generation, the power remained the same at 1200 horsepower, well that’s because the engine doesn’t exactly need more power, the FADEC system has a way of making the engine run much more efficiently, that’s why there is a 10% increase in power compared to the 67P series of engines, in addition, fuel consumption is reduced too, while torque and throttle response increased.
The same happened with the time before overhaul which went from 3500 to 5000 hours, while periods between scheduled maintenances have doubled up from 300 to 600 hours.
Speaking of flight performance, in comparison with the NG version, there is a minor increase in speed from 328mph to 333mph or 290 knots, which doesn’t matter, but will make a difference on longer flights.
Despite that the maximum takeoff weight is still the same at 10,450 pounds, the enhanced throttle response which is made possible by computers reduced the takeoff distance by 114 feet.
The landing distance didn’t change, still the same 2169 feet as in the NG version, which is already the best in its class, so, there is no real need to make it even shorter.
The maximum flight range is 2074 miles, that doesn’t mean you can put everything on it and go 2000 miles, in aviation, there is always a trade between filling up the seats with half fuel, of full fuel with some seats empty, but on the PC12, if you load it properly, the range comes down to 1500 miles.
Guess it’s time to hop into the cockpit. At first glance, everything looks familiar, glass cabin, Dark Materials, four big displays, and yokes, the engine control panel became quite empty, as a result of the progress of electronics and the emergence of autothrottle, the pilots were left only with a solitary power control lever, instead of a great variety of knobs and levers for condition and the rest, the engine now takes care of everything on its own.
Looking into the cockpit, the PC12NGX uses the Honeywell Primus Apex (the same line of avionics you find on more advanced jets like in the Gulfstreams), it is not useful only useful for the airplane and the pilot, but it plays a big role for passenger comfort.
For example, there is a single button for prop flow speed, which you can kick in once the plane takes off and reaches the true speed and the engine will be switched to a more optimal flight mode, what happens is that the rotation speed of the propeller will go from 1700 to 1500 revolutions per minute, and its pitch automatically changes to maintain the necessary thrust needed, this makes the engine and the propeller almost silence, which is definitely great for the passengers in the back.
The PC12’s airframe configuration and the materials hardly changed, except for the larger windows you get on the newest versions, which increased by about 10%, similar to what you find in the PC24.
To a lot of people, it doesn’t matter much, but if you ask me, it’s a big deal when it comes to comfort.
Now you get better views and there is more natural light in the passenger cabin, I don’t know about you, but I feel safer in a plane with larger windows, not because I can fit through it and escape in the event of a crash, but it just feels safer.
Speaking of interior design, BMW did wonders here, they introduced most of the improvements from the PC24, including communication and multimedia systems, comfort features, and above all, the seats.
Despite that they are not exactly the same as you’ll find on the PC24, the design is almost identical to each other.
The seats are improved, much better than the classic puffy seats you find in the previous versions, this one looks better and sportier (a good example of BMW’s excellence in design), Their backrest is taller with better support for shoulders, and their mechanization is more advanced.
Apart from the usual functions in terms of mobility, their backrest can be reclined to a practically horizontal position, making it possible to sleep more comfortably on long flights, in comparison, the backrest in the previous seats could be reclined only by 29 degrees.
Thanks to recent design techniques and new finishing materials, the space inside has been optimized, despite that, the overall dimensions are the same, it is a lot more comfortable than ever before.
Pilatus engineers made a crucial improvement to the new air conditioning system. Unlike the one you find in the previous generations, their problem is that they use only one air duct, which is at the aft section of the fuselage, and this design is not particularly good, with this design, you hardly get an equal temperature level in the cabin, it is always colder in the backseat than in the front, which is sometimes or most times not noticeable. But in the NGX version, there is more than one air duct, and it distributes cold air throughout the entire cabin via several smaller ducts, which makes the cabin climate is more even and a lot quieter.
You can get a PC12 with classic VIP cabins for six passengers, or as a cramped air taxi for nine passengers, there is also an option for cargo-passenger option, which is more suited to those that need a single-engine turboprop for utility purposes.
The brand-new PC-12 NGX builds on the rock-solid, 1,700 aircraft foundation of its market-defining predecessor.
In over seven million flight hours, the PC-12 has proven itself as the most versatile and valued business aircraft in the world. It’s an original that is impossible to copy.
The PC-12 NGX takes this legacy to the next level of refinement, efficiency, and technological advancement.
In summary, if you looking for a multipurpose powerhouse to fly can take you around the world, which might involve landing from gravel to grass, or even more rudimentary runways, the PC12 is a great airplane for that, the newest model, the PC12NGX brings years of intelligent thinking into arguably the best single-engine turboprop, fitted with the Pratt and Whitney PT6 engine.
The NGX and cruises faster than its predecessors without any increase in horsepower, this airplane is built for versatility.
It is perfect for business executives with up to 6 passengers treated to a true office in the sky, with the latest entertainment and communication devices, as well as reliable Wi-Fi and USB ports.
It is designed in conjunction with BMW, so you can choose from six well-designed flashy interior packages.
Where the PC 12 excels is the aircraft safety profile; with almost 1700 PC twelves in the air and over 600 million flight hours.
It’s considered one of the safest and most reliable aircraft. It’s also one of the most versatile single-pilot turboprop planes, used all around the world for business charters, air ambulance, surveillance, law enforcement, and cargo transport.
A brand-new PC 12 cost about $5.5 million. I didn’t cover what it might cost you the circumnavigate the world in a plane like, that’s because it is expensive.
Also, if your dream is to fly around the world, but you don’t have the money to do it in the PC12, use any plane you can afford.
Matt Guthmiller did it in a 1981 Beechcraft A36 Bonanza, Jack Wiegand did it in a Mooney Ovation2 GX, James Anthony Tan of Malaysia used a 30-year-old, single-engine Cessna 210 eagle aircraft, so all you need is a lot of courage, a survival kit, a single-engine in front and a long-range tank.
No matter where you are, your condition, don’t let anything stop you from achieving your dreams. I wish you safe landings to whatever your mission is.