My first retirement post – buying a new aircraft

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  • Anonymous


    As I mentioned in my last post I sold the company I had spent the last twenty eight years building up and am now retired. A couple of people here encouraged me to write about leisure rather than business travel so here’s the first.

    For the past year I have been looking for a suitable aircraft to buy for a combination of fun flying and moving between our homes in London, Northern Belgium and the South of France. My selection criteria was a passenger capacity of at least six persons, ability to fly from rough airfields, full de-icing for Alpine operations, a 1500kg payload all with a range of around 1500nm when loaded. After assessing a number of types and talking with people I have chosen the Pilatus PC12NG and are currently looking at three different ones that are for sale. Last week I flew the first of them.

    The PC-12 NG is rugged enough to set down on a short gravel strip at high altitude, it’s pressurised for jumping over weather and keeping passengers comfortable, (Mrs P expects no less) it’s fast enough to make it convenient for European travel, it’s got a great range for when the flight stretches out and it has a reconfigurable cabin roomy enough to let us choose what or who we carry for a long weekend in the woods. The big side-loading door aids in loading gear, up to small motorcycles and it has a cockpit that rivals those of many high end business jets.

    One of the biggest surprises for me when I first flew the PC-12 NG years ago is that it is in every respect a serious turbine class product with exactly the same kinds of systems and the same kinds of equipment you’d see in a King Air or, for that matter, a Citation. The PC-12 NG has every system, except those related to a twin instead of a single, as those other airplanes do. The PC-12 NG is a single-pilot airplane so it’s laid out to accommodate that, with controls and switches arranged to keep them within reach. At the same time, flying the PC-12 NG is not like flying a high-performance single. There are systems to be learned, from pressurization to turbine management, there’s a nicely implemented crew alerting system, emergency oxygen and emergency gear extension, among many others.

    One of the least well-understood facets of the PC-12 NG is the new avionics system from Honeywell, known as Apex. Today’s Apex, Build 8, is better than ever, and it was remarkably good to begin with.
    For those of you not familiar with Apex, the system is based on Honeywell’s Primus Epic, just like the EASy flight deck in the Dassault Falcon. Since the last time I flew a Pilatus, a couple of years back, Apex has gotten even better. The main improvements are the addition of synthetic vision and the greatly improved integration of charts, now geo-referenced, and weather data into the system. There’s also the adoption of the excellent L-3 Trilogy all-in-one standby instrument, along with dual FMSes.

    Flying Apex is a very air-transport kind of experience. The fit of the displays — indeed, of the entire cockpit layout — is clean and sharp. Every display can be windowed, in essence giving you a dozen or more customizable mini displays. Depending on your phase of flight, you can have an approach chart showing on one display, systems information (perhaps a fuel system page) in a window on another, and flight plan information on another. Pilots can set up the system not only to their liking, but also to best fit their current needs.

    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. Apex guided me through the bizjet-style preflight checks. Starting the PT6 is an easy affair. 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.
    At FL 270 we were initially seeing 265 knots while burning just under 400 pounds per hour. The trip back to home airport was a pleasure. My last landing of the trip was anticlimactic and telling. We kept our speed way up on the way in to keep the ATC 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 relative when it comes to the PC-12 NG) and made the reverse high-speed turnoff.

    I am now in the “so how much will you take” stage with the present owner. The negotiations begin ?


    A very impressive aircraft, the PC-12NG.

    I guess the main issue around it is the fact it is single engined and the arising opposite views that

    1 – turbines are very reliable and thus I’m not worried


    2 – you don’t want to deadstick out of a 200′ cloudbase

    It’s a matter of personal risk assessment, but I’d feel much more comfortable in a PC-12 than in a Piper Malibu (piston engine.)

    There are people on here who have impressive experience in operating turbine powered aircraft and I hope they may comment.

    Will you be operating single crew or using a safety pilot? Are you a current IR rated pilot (I guess that’s a no brainer answer, to get the benefit out of a PC-12)


    Absolutely fascinating. Please post more updates! Thank-you very much.


    Since the original post my broker has suggested another aircraft which I will be looking at on Monday. It’s a The Daher-Socata TBM 850, same engine as the Pilatus but less interior space.

    Both powered by a Pratt & Whitney PT6A engine, but the PC-12 NG is a much larger airplane, with nearly three times the cabin volume and a much greater payload. Despite its size, the Pilatus’ short-field performance capability also beats the TBM. However, the TBM 850 bats the PC-12 NG in speed, efficiency and initial purchase price.

    Although I will buying a used aircraft the price when new numbers give an idea of the difference

    PC12NG $4.6 million
    TBM 850 $3.4 million

    Interestingly the PC12 is slightly better on cost per hour operating expenses and I can expect to pay around $650 per hour compared to $720 for the TBM. It’s not clear yet if I will be able to fly the TBM on Monday but if I do I will post an update here.


    Well done Charles,and I’m delighted you’re still contributing to the forum.

    The PC12 is a great aircraft and you’ll be very happy with it. I visited the factory several times and have often flown in them and I am really impressed with the plane and the company. As FDOS says much more comfortable than a Piper and I’d add more rugged than either the Piper or Cessna. The Caravan is a formidable beast though and the high wing can be an advantage, but I still think the Pilatus is a much better aircraft.

    Enjoy it and hopefully you’ll post a picture or two?.


    Our posts crossed Charles. I’d still go for the Pilatus as they hold their value very well. No disrespect to the Daher-Socata TBM but I’d prefer Swiss built. From memory wasn’t it originally a Mooney till bought by the French? My recollection of flying the Mooney was of a very cramped aircraft though indeed it was faster than either the Piper or Cessna (I’m talking single engine piston here though).


    LuganoPirate – 20/04/2016 09:46 BST

    Just to be clear I was thinking about engines when I used the word ‘comfortable’ 🙂 although there is no contest on the the other type of comfort.

    I used to fly from the same place as a PA46 (Malibu) in the 1990s and in the early days it had a rep for higher than normal engine failures, although whether these were due to the engine itself or the handling of the engine by the pilots was unclear (at least to me.)

    Talking to the owner, it demanded far higher knowledge, skills and airmanship than the PA32s that I flew, operating in the ‘teens’ or ‘twenties.’

    When I did my high performance endorsement (PPL) in California, I asked the instructor for his opinion (he was a regional airliner FO) and he thought that they were far more demanding to fly than the equivalent turboprop, due to the need to handle the engine very carefully.


    ‘My recollection of flying the Mooney was of a very cramped aircraft though indeed it was faster than either the Piper or Cessna (I’m talking single engine piston here though).’

    That’s my memory, too, along with a unusual trimming system.


    LuganoPirate – thanks for the input and of course I recognise your liking of a Swiss built aircraft, I expected no less 🙂

    The TBM is indeed a development of a Mooney design idea ( I think it was called something like the 300 or 350) and the original TBM 700 was closely aligned to that original concept however the latest 850 is substantially different not least in having a pilot’s door and a much bigger cargo entrance. All that being said I am still very much leaning toward the Pilatus because of its interior size.

    I will post some links to photos the next time I take a test flight. Must go now, we retired people have lunchtime cheese and wine calling !



    That has to be the best travel dilemma ever posted to BT. 🙂


    Thanks for the links Charles and both look great. I wish you well in your purchase and I’m sure you’ll make the right decision whichever plane you buy.



    The TBM looks really sleek, but the Pilatus gets really great reviews. In either case I totally agree with @GrahamC.

    Whichever craft you choose, I’m sure you will get great enjoyment.

    BTW, I notice that both aircraft are on the November register, and currently based in US. I guess that means you will ferry it back and move it to the Golf register.

    If you are ferrying it back yourself, and need company, just holler!! Only snag is that, although I have an FAA PPL, I am at present neither current nor have an IR 🙁


    Enjoying the thread very much. Presume this aircraft will be for your sole use and not put on an AOC for charter.

    How many hours a year are you basing your per hour costs on?

    My late father went through the entire Piper single range and ended with a Meridien. However, at the time, single engine charters under IR were challenging..

    Did you consider a twin jet.. I think you once said your former firm had one.

    I hope you get a lot of enjoyment flying the aircraft.. and look forward to hearing further about your choice..

    @LP.. really sorry for being pedantic….but a ‘plane’ is what a carpenter uses to shave wood….. Charles is buying an aeroplane :))

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