Pilatus Plane Types and Model Guide

Switzerland’s most famous exports include the three big C’s – Cheese, Chocolate, and Clocks. But the aviation community is interested in the country for another reason. It is the birthplace and home to Pilatus Aircraft Ltd. 

The company defines itself as the only Swiss company to develop, produce and sell aircraft. Pilots who’ve flown the aircraft agree. The company prides itself on over-engineering its aircraft to ensure performance, precision, and practicality. In addition, the company builds its aircraft to be future-proof with the latest technology. 

Sadly, I’ve never had the pleasure of flying a Pilatus, but I’ve had some hands-on time with the PC-12 – their most popular model. It was a memorable experience. You might find aircraft with a better spec sheet, but the design and build quality are brilliant.

The company has historically focused on producing training aircraft for civil and military purposes, aircraft with short takeoff and landing (STOL) performance, and other niche aircraft. In the last 84 years, Pilatus has designed 17 models, and nine never made it into production.

The eight production models comprise five military trainers, three single-engine STOL transport, and one twin-engine business jet. This article will be a deep dive into all 17 Pilatus aircraft. 


Pilatus was established in Stans, Switzerland, on December 1939 by Oerlikon-Bührle and remains strong 84 years later. The company wasn’t founded to design and produce aircraft. Instead, Pilatus was formed to carry out maintenance and repairs for the Swiss Air Force.

The company’s first foray into building aircraft was assembling a reconnaissance aircraft for the Swiss Air Force,  the two-seater bi-plane EKW C-35 built by the Swiss Federal Construction Works. It wasn’t long until Pilatus began designing its first aircraft.

The company’s first-ever aircraft project started in 1939 and ended before engineers could build a prototype. However, the company made more attempts in the following years and succeeded six years later when it produced its first production aircraft. Since then, the company has gone from strength to strength and is one of the premier aircraft manufacturers in the world.

Abandoned Models

This section includes models abandoned in the design phase or after building the prototype.


Pilatus SB-1
Image from Wikipedia

The first aircraft project Pilatus took on was the SB-1 in 1939. The SB-1 was designed as a fixed-wing, single-engine, twin-propeller monoplane with conventional landing gear.

The SB-1 had many interesting design traits. Its first unique trait is using a single engine to drive its two propellers. The SB-1 was meant to be powered by the Argus As 10E producing a maximum of 237 hp (177 kW), the same engine used in the Messerschmitt Bf 108 Typhoon. 

Each propeller is connected to the engine using V-belts, eliminating the need for propeller controls in this configuration. Only a handful of planes use this configuration, most of which are designed to be vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft, mainly because it isn’t viable for use at high speeds. 

The SB-1s propellers were to be mounted on the leading edge of the wings to reduce drag and improve performance at slow speeds. In addition, the mid-wing configuration of the SB-1 would’ve contributed to its low-speed performance because it dramatically reduces interference drag compared to high and low-wing designs. 

The empennage of the SB-1 sported a twin tail and a tail-wheel. Pilatus planned to build the SB-1 from steel tubing, aluminum, and fabric. Unfortunately, the project was abandoned in 1939, the same year it began, in the design stage before Pilatus could build a prototype.

Design Specifications
Length 33 ft 10 in (10.3 m)
Wingspan49 ft 3 in (15 m)
Wing Loading5.3 lb/ft² (26 kg/m²)
Maximum Power (2,000 RPM)237 hp (177 kW)
Maximum Continuous Power 197 hp (147 kW)
Engine ModelArgus As 10E 

SB-2 Pelican

Image from Wikipedia

The SB-2 Pelican is Pilatus’s first successful aircraft and the only SB model to take flight. Work on the project started in the winter of 1941. The SB-2 was envisioned as a utility aircraft and would need to take off and land in the Swiss Alpine Valley, which was narrow and had few spots that could accommodate aircraft.

The project began in the winter of 1941 and was a joint venture with the ETH Zurich research university. Pilatus aimed to build a utility aircraft for civil operations. Engineers focused on STOL performance and a high climb rate to fly over high terrain and obstacles. 

The SB-2 was a high-wing, single-engine piston monoplane with fixed tricycle landing gear. The wings had a forward sweep, which allowed the SB-2 to have a higher critical angle of attack (AOA). The setup increased its climb performance significantly. In addition, the stall speed is also reduced. However, the forward sweep reduces performance at high speeds.  

A high-wing configuration was chosen over a low-wing setup to increase ground clearance because the aircraft would land on rough ground. For the same reason, a nose-wheel tricycle landing gear system was chosen, which was uncommon at the time. The two rear wheels were attached to the wings and the fuselage to increase rigidity. 

A high-performance, nine-cylinder, air-cooled Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior TB radial piston engine powered the SB-2. The engine produced a maximum of 440 hp (330 kW), which was only used for takeoff and the initial climb to reduce wear and tear and the probability of failure. 

Pilatus only produced one SB-2 Pelican, but it was an astounding success, proving that Pilatus is more than an outfit that only assembles aircraft. The SB-2’s maiden flight was on May 30th, 1944. It operated for four years and was damaged beyond repair on June 13th, 1948, when the nosegear failed, causing it to flip over. 

General Specifications
Passenger Occupancy5
Length 32 ft 6 in (9.9 m)
Height10 ft 6 in (3.2 m)
Wingspan50 ft 10 in (15.5 m)
Wing Area310 ft² (29 m²)
Basic Empty Weight3,519 lb (1,596 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight4,619 lb (2,095 kg)
Fuel Capacity90 Gal (340 L)
Performance Specifications
Maximum Speed120 kts (140 mph, 230 kmph)
Cruise Speed109 kts (125 mph, 201 kmph)
Vso41 kts (47 mph, 76 kmph)
Range435 nmi (500 mi, 805 kmph)
Takeoff Distance49 ft (15 m) – 1,201 ft (366 m)
Landing Distance49 ft (15 m) – 720 ft (220 m)
Wing Loading @ Maximum Takeoff Weight3.0 lb/ft² (14.7 kg/m²)
Power Loading @ Maximum Takeoff Weight10.5 lb/hp (6.37 kg/kW)
Maximum Power237 hp (177 kW)
Maximum Continuous Power 197 hp (147 kW)
Engine ModelPratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior TB
Propeller ModelTwo-bladed Hamilton Standard (Variable Pitch)


Pilatus SB-5
Image from Wikipedia

The final iteration of the Pilatus SB line is the SB-5. Like the SB-1, The project was abandoned before a prototype was built. 

The SB-5 was developed from the SB-2 Pelican and was envisioned as a larger, higher-capacity SB-2. Like the SB-2, the SB-5 was designed as a single-engine piston monoplane with fixed tricycle landing gear and forward-swept high wings.

The SB-5 had a maximum capacity of 10 passengers, twice the capacity of its predecessor. In addition, the wingspan was increased by a factor of two to accommodate the Maximum Takeoff Weight of 11,023 lb (5,000 kg) and maintain the STOL performance of the SB-2 Pelican. 

Pilatus chose the Wright R-1820 Cyclone nine-cylinder radial piston engine to power SB-5. The powerplant produced 1,200 hp (890 kW) at its takeoff power setting. In addition, it drove a three-bladed constant-speed Esher-Wvyess propeller. This propeller was chosen because of its ability to reverse the pitch of its blades to help slow the aircraft down when necessary. 

Theoretically, this powertrain combination could propel the SB-5 to a maximum speed of 130 kts (160 mph, 250 kmph). But, unfortunately, the capabilities of the SB-5 were never realized. 

Estimated Specifications
Passenger Occupancy9-10
Wingspan72 ft 2 in (22 m)
Wing Area590 ft² (55 m²)
Maximum Takeoff Weight11,023 lb (5,000 kg)
Maximum speed130 kts (160 mph, 250 kmph)
Engine ModelWright R-1820 Cyclone
Maximum Power1,200 hp (890 kW)
Propeller Model3-bladed Escher-Wyss 


Pilatus P-1

The P-1 was the company’s first attempt at a single-engine, single-seat military trainer for the Swiss Air Force. 

Pilatus engineer Henri Fiert led the project, which began in October of 1940. He envisioned the aircraft as a single-engine, low-wing monoplane with conventional landing gear. The fuselage would’ve been built with a steel tube frame, with detachable aluminum panels, while the empennage would be covered in fabric. Plywood was the material of choice for the wings and flight controls to keep weight down. 

The aircraft was never built, but the concepts and lessons engineers learned during the project were carried over to the P-2, which became the first commercially successful mass-produced Pilatus. 

The project was abandoned early in the design phase, which meant that most of the aircraft’s specifications were theoretical. 

Estimated Specifications
Wingspan30 ft 2 in
Wing Area137 ft² (12.7m²)
Basic Empty Weight1,874 lb (850 kg)
Maximum Gross Weight2,535 lb (1,150 kg)
Maximum speed175 kts (202 mph, 325 kmph)
Engine ModelArgus As 10E2
Maximum Power240 hp (180 kW)
Service Ceiling20,000 ft (6,000 m)
Maximum Climb Rate1,280 ft/min (6.5 m/s)


Image from Wikipedia

The Pilatus wanted the P-4 to take after the SB-2 Pelican and fulfill the role of a STOL utility aircraft. Pilatus P-4 was a high-wing, single-engine piston monoplane with fixed conventional landing.

Pilatus learned from their mistakes with the SB-2 Pelican and changed the landing gear from a nose-wheel gear to a tail-wheel. The fuselage consisted of a steel tube structure overlaid with fabric, while the wings were wooden. The wing and landing gear were connected to the fuselage by steel V-struts, strengthening the landing gear and allowing it to cope with the rough terrain. The P-4 could also be fitted with Skis or Floats. 

The aircraft was initially powered by a single Lycoming GO-435-A, a horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine that produced 190 hp (140 kW). However, Pilatus deemed the plane underpowered after it went into service and replaced the unit with a GO-435-C2 which produced 240 hp (180 kW). The engine drove a two-bladed variable pitch propeller.

The P-4 was registered in Switzerland as HB-AET and had its maiden flight on March 22nd, 1948. The P-4 was featured at the 1949 Paris Air Show and performed as Pilatus promised. 

However, it didn’t go into production because the company was refurbishing the Air Force’s P-51 Mustangs and building the de Havilland Venom jet fighters. As a result, the company lacked the production capacity to produce the P-4 while completing its current contracts. 

General Specifications
Passenger Occupancy4
Length 28 ft 3 in (8.6 m)
Height8 ft 2 in (2.5 m)
Wingspan38 ft 11 in (11.85 m)
Wing Area225 ft² (20.9 m²)
Basic Empty Weight2,006 lb (910 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight3,307 lb (1,500 kg)
Fuel Capacity61 US Gal (230 L)
Performance Specifications
Maximum Speed132 kts (152 mph, 245 kmph)
Cruise Speed82 kts (94 mph, 152 kmph)
Range540 nmi (620 mi, 1,000 km)
Service Ceiling16,000 ft (5,000 m)
Rate of Climb890 ft/min (4.5 m/s)
Maximum Power190 hp (140 kW)
Engine ModelLycoming O-435


pilatus p-5 sketch model
Image from Wikipedia

The P-5 is another failed project that didn’t reach the prototype phase. Pilatus began the P-5 project in 1951 at the behest of the Federal Military Department, which wanted an artillery observation aircraft. Unfortunately, the P-5 was abandoned in the same year. 

The aircraft was meant to be a single-engine, two-seat high-wing monoplane with fixed conventional landing gear. The aircraft’s fuselage was curved towards the bottom to increase visibility. 

Estimated Specifications
Length30 ft 2 in (9.2 m)
Wingspan39 ft 4 in (12 m)
Height8 ft 2 in (2.5 m)
Empty Weight1,896 lb (860 kg)
Maximum speed100 kts (115 mph, 181 kmph)
Rate of Climb1,200 ft/min (6 m/s)
Maximum Power240 hp (180 kW)
Takeoff Distance213 ft (65 m)
Landing Distance164 ft (50 m)


pilatus pc-8 black and white image
Image from Pilatus Aircraft

The Pilatus P-8, officially known as the PC-8D Twin Porter, was developed from the PC-6 and had ten seats. Like the PC-6, the PC-8 was a high-wing, STOL aircraft. 

However, the larger airframe would require a larger engine, making the aircraft overly nose heavy. Therefore, engineers opted to make the PC-8 a twin-engine plane. Pilatus used Lycoming IO-540-GIB engines with three-bladed propellers that produced 290 hp (213 kW). 

Pilatus only built one prototype PC-8. The aircraft had its maiden flight on November 28th, 1967, and continued operations until 1969, when the project was canceled. 

General Specifications
Passenger Occupancy9
Length34 ft 5 in (10.5 m)
Wingspan51 ft 2 in (15.6 m)
Height12 ft (3.65 m)
Empty Weight3,417 lb (2,700 kg)
Maximum speed140 kts (161 mph, 259 kmph)
Cruise Speed120 kts (138 mph, 222 kmph)
Range760 nmi (870 mi, 1,400 km)
Rate of Climb1,200 ft/min (6 m/s)
Maximum Power290 hp (213 kW)


pilatus pc-10 aircraft
Image from Wikipedia

The PC-10 project was supposed to spawn three different models, the PC-10 Mini Twin, PC-10, and PC-10 Masterporter. Unfortunately, however, none of the projects made it off the drawing board. 

The PC-10 was meant to be a larger version of the PC-8 that could ferry 16 passengers or 4,409 lb (2,000 kg). The airplane was meant to be powered by either two Garrett TPE-331 or Pratt & Whitney PT6A-27 turboprop engines. The PC-10 Masterporter was meant to be a freighter for the Swiss Air Force. 

The PC-10 Mini Twin was essentially the same aircraft as the PC-8. The only difference would’ve been the choice of powerplant. Pilatus wanted this model to be powered by turboprop engines instead of standard piston engines. 

Past Models

This section consists of models that went into mass production but have since been retired. The specifications will reflect the final iteration of the model. 


pilatus p-2 aircraft
Image from Fandom

The P-2 is a low-wing, single-engine training aircraft with retractable landing in a conventional configuration. It was built by Pilatus Aircraft and is considered the company’s first successful aircraft and proved that the company had what it takes to build successful aircraft. 

The P-2 was based on the abandoned P-1 project. The design and construction were almost identical, with some minor changes. The most significant design change was adding a second seat for the instructor. Other changes were made to keep production costs down, mainly using parts from other aircraft in the Swiss Air Force’s inventory to keep production costs low.

Pilatus created six versions of the P-2, only two of which were produced. The P-2-05 was the unarmed version, and the P-2-06 was the armed version. Both were equipped with  Argus As 410A-2 V-12 piston engines that made a maximum of 465 hp (347 kW).

The company sold 28 of the unarmed version and 26 of the armed version to the Air Force, which used the aircraft from 1945 to 1981. After the planes were retired from military service, they were sold for civilian use. 

The aircraft remained in operation as stunt aircraft for films and other media. The most famous film that used the aircraft is Indian Jones and the Last Crusade. 

General Specifications
Passenger OccupancyN/A
Length 29 ft 9 in
Height8 ft 10 in (2.70 m)
Wingspan36 ft 1 in (11 m)
Wing Area183 ft² (17 m²)
Basic Empty Weight3,042 lb (1,380 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight3,968 lb (1,800 kg)
Performance Specifications
Maximum Speed181 kts (208 mph, 335 kmph)
Range467 nmi (537 mi, 865 km)
Rate of Climb890 ft/min (4.5 m/s)
Maximum Power 465 hp (347 kW)
Engine ModelArgus As 410A-2


Image from Fandom

The Pilatus P-3 was the brainchild of Henry Fierz and the successor to the P-2. The P-3 outsold the P-2 and was the first aircraft that Pilatus exported.

The Pilatus P-3 was a single-engine, low-wing monoplane with tricycle landing gear that featured an all-metal construction (a combination of steel and aluminum). It is a military training aircraft designed to prepare Swiss Air Force fighter pilots to fly early jet fighters. 

The Air Force required the P-3 to be capable of IFR (instrument flight rules) and night flights. The landing gear had to be in a tricycle configuration because the aircraft these pilots would graduate to were de Havilland Vampires, which used tricycle landing gear. The P-3 had a machine gun pod under the left wing and underwing racks for training ordinances such as bombs or missiles. 

The aircraft first flew on September 3rd, 1953. However, after extensive testing, Pilatus would only introduce the plane three years later. The company sold 78 aircraft, 72 to the Swiss Air Force and seven to the Brazilian Navy. The Swiss Air Force used the aircraft until 1993, after which the remaining 65 models were sold to civilians. 

General Specifications
Passenger Occupancy1
Length 28 ft 8 in (8.75 m)
Height10 ft (3.05 m)
Wingspan34 ft 1 in (10.40 m)
Wing Area178.1 ft² (16.55 m²)
Basic Empty Weight2,403 lb (1,090 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight3,307 lb (1,500 kg)
Fuel Capacity42 Gal (160 L)
Performance Specifications
Maximum Speed170 kts (190 mph, 310 kmph)
Cruise Speed136 kts (171 mph, 275 kmph)
Range400 nmi (470 mi, 750 km)
Service Ceiling18,000 ft (5,500 m)
Maximum Power260 hp (190 kW)
Engine ModelLycoming GO-435-C2-A2


piulatus pc-6 aircraft

The Pilatus PC-6 Porter is a high-wing, single-engine, STOL utility aircraft with conventional landing gear available in piston and turboprop versions. The piston version first took flight on May 4th, 1959, while the turboprop had its maiden flight almost precisely two years later. 

The aircraft was in production for 63 years, from 1959 to 2022, and sold 604 units. The aircraft production could have been faster, with only about ten aircraft produced a year, because it was used in niche operations such as parachute-dropping operations in Western Europe and ski-dropping operations in the Alps. The aircraft holds the world record for completing trips at its maximum useful load to an altitude of 18,700 ft (5,700 m). 

Pilatus aimed to end production in 2019, which was later extended to 2022 because of the pandemic. Instead, the company retired the PC-6 for the new PC-24 Jet. 

General Specifications
Passenger Occupancy10
Length 36 ft 1 in (11 m)
Height10 ft 6 in (3.2 m)
Wingspan52 ft 1 in (15.87 m)
Wing Area324.5 ft² (30.15 m²)
Basic Empty Weight2,800 lb (1,270 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight6,173 lb (2,800 kg)
Performance Specifications
Maximum Speed (Turboprop)151 kts (174 mph, 280 kmph)
Range (Turboprop)870 nmi (1,610 km)
Service Ceiling (Turboprop)25,000 ft (7, 620 m)
Maximum Power (Piston)350 hp (261 kW)
Maximum Power (Turboprop)680 hp (507 kW)
Engine Model (Piston)Lycoming IGO-540-A1A
Engine Model (Turboprop)Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-27


pilatus pc-9 aircraft

The PC-9 is a low-wing, single-engine turboprop military training aircraft with tricycle landing gear. The plane is a more powerful version of the PC-7, which it was developed from. However, the end product had very little in common with the aircraft it was developed from other than the layout.

The heavier and larger PC-9 is powered by a derated Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6A-62 Turboprop producing 950 shp (710 kW) mated to a four-bladed Hartzell HC-E4A-2 Hub with E9612 blades. The PC-9 has two Martin-Baker Mark CH11A ejection seats in a stepped tandem configuration. The rear seat is higher than the front seat, allowing the instructor to monitor the student’s actions.

The aircraft had its maiden flight on May 7th, 1984. Saudi Arabia was the launch partner, after which Switzerland, Croatia, and Thailand ordered the PC-9. Pilatus produced 265 units over its production run. The latest unit was sold to Chad in 2006. 

General Specifications
Length 33 ft 4 in (10.16 m)
Height10 ft 8 in (3.25 m)
Wingspan33 ft 5 in (10.19 m)
Wing Area177.5 ft² (16.49 m²)
Basic Empty Weight5,181 lb (2,350 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight7,055 lb (3,200 kg)
Fuel Capacity178.97 US Gal (677.5 L)
Performance Specifications
Maximum Speed316 kts (364 mph, 586 kmph)
Cruise Speed280 kts (320 mph, 510 kmph)
Range900 nmi (1,000 mi, 1,700 km)
Service Ceiling31,000 ft (9,400 m)
Maximum Power950 shp (710 kW)
Engine ModelPratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-62
PropellerFour-bladed Hartzell HC-E4A-2 Hub with E9612 blades


pilatus pc-11 b4 the glider

The Pilatus PC-11 is a standard-class glider designed by Ingo Herbst, Manfred Küppers, and Rudolf Reinke. The Firma Rheintalwerke G. Basten company built the prototypes. It also named the glider the B4. However, only two prototypes were built, with the first taking flight on November 7th, 1966.

Pilatus only built production models after it acquired the license in 1972, after which it renamed the model the PC-11. The company built 322 gliders before selling the license to a Japanese company called Nippi Aircraft, which produced an additional 13.

General Specifications
Length 21 ft 7 in (6.57 m)
Height5 ft 2 in (1.57 m)
Wingspan49 ft 3 in (15 m)
Wing Area150 ft² (14 m²)
Basic Empty Weight507 lb (230 kg)
Gross Weight772 lb (350 kg)
Performance Specifications
Maximum Speed130 kts (150 mph, 240 kmph)

Current Models

Pilatus is currently producing the models in this section. Therefore, the information about performance and features pertains to the latest available model. 


pilatus pc-mkx aircraft

The PC-7 is a single-engine, unpressurized military trainer with tandem seating and a tricycle gear configuration. The Pilatus PC-7 is easily the company’s most successful military trainer. It has been in production since August 1978, with over 600 models built, and is used by over 20 countries. 

The PC-7 was developed from the P-3 and was intended to replace it in the 1970s. Work on the program began in the mid-1960s, with a prototype taking flight on April 12th, 1966. However, the project was shelved after the prototype crashed. In addition, there wasn’t enough demand for the aircraft.

The program was restarted in 1978, with the company again using the P-3 platform as a base. The first PC-7 sported a one-piece wing with integrated fuel tanks, tandem seats in a bubble canopy, and a new tailfin. The PC-7 proved a resounding success and is still in production 40 years later. Over its production run, Pilatus has built four variants, including the latest PC-7 MKX.

The first variant is the PC-7 Mk II. The new variant is based on its bigger brother, the PC-9. The overall airframe and avionics were based on the PC-9 but retained the wings of the PC-7. The variant was built for the South African Air Force (SAAF) and is called the “Astra.” The more powerful Pratt & Whitney PT6A-25C turboprop engine also powers the model, which produces 700 shp (522 kW).

The third variant is the NCPC-7, essentially a PC-7 with IFR glass cockpit conversion. Again, this model was specific to the Swiss Air Force. 

The latest variant, the PC-7 MKX, debuted at the 2021 Dubai Airshow. Every part of the aircraft has been upgraded to improve performance, such as using a monocoque airframe made of light composite materials, improved aerodynamics, and wholly overhauled interiors with state-of-the-art proprietary glass cockpits. However, the aircraft has retained its iconic design and tandem seating. 

In 2023, the PC-7 MKX retails at $3.9 million. However, these aircraft are unavailable to the general public and sold in bulk to governments. The only notable civilian operator of the plane is Swissair. 

The new PC-7 MKX is built to be more cost-efficient, reliable, and perform better than the competition. It’s powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25C engine, producing 700 shp (522 kW), allowing the aircraft to reach a top speed of 300 kts. 

General Specifications
Length 33 ft 7 in (10.26 m)
Height10 ft 8 in (3.26 m)
Wingspan34 ft 4 in (10.46 m)
Wing Area178.7 ft² (16.60 m²)
Basic Empty Weight2,932 lb (1,330 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight5,952 lb (2,700 kg)
Performance Specifications
Maximum Speed300 kts (345 mph, 555 kmph)
Stall Speed77 kts (89 mph, 142 kmph)
Range1,420 nmi (1,630 mi, 2,630 km)
Service Ceiling33,000 ft (10,000 m)
Rate of Climb2,675 fpm (13.6 m/s)
Maximum Power700 shp (522 kW)
Fuel Capacity125 US Gal (474 L)
Engine ModelPratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25C engine
Propeller3-bladed Hartzell HC-B3TN-2/T10173C-8 Constant-speed


pilatus pc-12 aircraft

Pilatus calls the PC-12 the “world’s greatest single.” It is a pressurized, single-engine turboprop aircraft designed marketing as a luxury high-performance utility aircraft. The plane lives up to its marketing claims and is used worldwide for corporate transportation. However, like all Pilatus aircraft, the PC-12 is a utility aircraft used for various other operations. 

Pilatus started development on the PC-12 behind closed doors and was tight-lipped about the project until it was officially announced in October 1989 at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). However, the prototype was already assembled when the announcement was made. 

The Pilatus debuted two prototypes on May 1st, 1991. The maiden flight occurred 30 days later, but Pilatus wasn’t happy with the initial performance. So the company redesigned the wings, making them bigger, and added winglets to improve efficiency. Unfortunately, the changes delayed the certification by nearly three years.

Since 1994, Pilatus has produced seven variants of the PC-12. The two more notable variants are the PC-12 NG (Next Generation)and the PC-12 NGX, which were introduced in 2008 and 2020. The other four variants have minor changes, such as a higher maximum takeoff weight.

The PC-12 NG (also known as the PC-12/47E) received a brand new Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67P engine and an avionics overhaul courtesy of Honeywell. The interior was also upgraded with improved seats and inflight entertainment. 

The most recent iteration is the PC-12 NGX. This model is equipped with the more powerful Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67P turboprop engine, which produces 1,200 shp (890 kW) and is coupled with a Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system and autothrottle. 

The Advanced Cockpit Environment (ACE) avionics suite made by Honeywell for the PC-24 is featured in the PC-12 NGX, with features such as SmartView synthetic vision and more. The PC-12 NGX also features an interior designed by BMW Designworks, with elements from the Pilatus PC-24 corporate jet. 

The PC-12 is the most popular model in the Pilatus line-up and the best-selling aircraft in its category for over a decade. The combination of low operating cost, bulletproof reliability, and its ability to maintain value has allowed Pilatus to sell over 1,920 aircraft, which have racked up over 10 million fleet hours. 

General Specifications
Crew1 – 2
Passengers6 – 9
Length 47 ft 3 in (14.40 m)
Height14 ft 0 in (4.26 m)
Wingspan53 ft 4 in (16.28 m)
Wing Area178.7 ft² (16.60 m²)
Basic Operating Weight6,803 lb (3,086 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight10,450 lb (4,740 kg)
Maximum Landing Weight9,921 lb (4,500 kg)
Maximum Payload2,236 lb (1,014 kg)
Maximum Payload with Full Fuel988 lb (448 kg)
Performance Specifications
Maximum Cruise Speed290 kts (333 mph, 537 kmph)
Stall Speed67 kts (77 mph, 124 kmph)
Range (with 4 Passengers and Reserves)1,803 nmi (3,339 km)
Service Ceiling30,000 ft (9,144 m)
Maximum Rate of Climb1,920 ft/min (9.75 m/s)
Maximum Power1,200 shp (882.6 kW)
Engine ModelPratt & Whitney Canada PT6E-67XP
PropellerFive-bladed Hartzell


pilatus pc-21 aircraft

The PC-21 is a pressurized, single-engine turboprop military trainer with tandem seating and tricycle landing gear. It’s touted as the evolution of the PC-7 and was developed from the PC-7 MkII. The PC-21 is designed to emulate the performance of jet aircraft to allow militaries to train pilots ab-initio and enable them to transition to actual jet fighters easily. 

The PC-21 successfully replace jet trainers like the BAE Systems Hawk. The PC-21 is a success mainly because of its substantially low operating costs compared to current military jet trainers. In addition, Pilatus markets the PC-21 as a comprehensive package, which includes flight simulators and ground instruction.

Pilatus began development on the PC-21 in 1998 after carefully identifying the needs of the military. The prototype made its maiden flight in July 2002, and a year later, Pilatus green-lit the project. The aircraft was certified two years later but was only introduced in 2008 after the second prototype crashed due to pilot error.

The PC-21 is operated by multiple Air Forces worldwide, including Australia, Singapore, France, Spain, and multiple countries in the UAE. Pilatus has sold more than 200 aircraft since 2008, which is an impressive feat, considering that it’s a highly niche aircraft. 

As mentioned, the PC-21 features tandem seating with the student in front and the instructor at the rear. The avionics system comprises three LCDs, a primary flight display (PFD) with all the relevant flight information, and two multifunction displays (MFD), which can be customized to suit the training environment. Heads-up displays are also standard to emulate modern jet cockpits better. In addition, both the student and instructor have their own instrument cluster. 

The instructor’s instrument cluster can be uncoupled from the student’s. The features allow them to change values and information on the student’s systems to create targets and emulate system failures and other training aids. 

The PC-21 is powered by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68B, which produces 1,600 shp (1,176 kW) and is known for its reliability and low maintenance costs. 

General Specifications
Length 36 ft 10 in (11.22 m)
Height12 ft 4 in (3.75 m)
Wingspan29 ft 11 in (9.11 m)
Wing Area163.85 ft² (15.22 m²)
Maximum Zero Fuel Weight6,062 lb (2,750 kg)
Maximum Takeoff Weight9,340 lb (4,250 kg)
Maximum Landing Weight8,902 lb (4,038 kg)
Performance Specifications
Maximum Operating Speed370 kts (425 mph, 685 kmph)
Maximum Operating Mach Number0.72 Mach
Stall Speed81 kts (93 mph,150 kmph)
Service Ceiling25,000 ft (7,620 m)
Maximum Rate of Climb (ISA)4,250 ft/min (21.6 m/s)
Maximum Power1,600 shp (1,176 kW)
G Load+8 G | -4 G
Engine ModelPratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68B
Propeller5-bladed Hartzell Propeller


pilatus pc-24 aircraft

The PC-24 is the newest addition to the Pilatus line-up. It is considered the evolution of the PC-12. The PC-24 is a light business jet with swept wings, a t-tail, and twin rear-fuselage mounted turbofan engines. Since its introduction, Pilatus has produced over 100 units, with plenty more on backorder, proving just how good the aircraft is. 

The PC-24 is a niche aircraft designed for customers who want a jet with STOL-like performance and a jet aircraft’s speed and comfort. It is marketed as “the world’s first super versatile jet.”

Pilatus began development on the PC-24 in 2007 because customers of the PC-12 pushed the company to develop an aircraft with more range and speed while retaining the ability to land on rugged terrain and utilize short, unconventional runways. The end product did precisely that.

The first prototype of the PC-24 took flight in May 2015. Testing continued for two years, after which the aircraft received EASA and FAA certification. Finally, the plane was introduced into service in April 2018. Initially, the PC-24 was only rated to land in dry sand and gravel. However, in February 2020, it was re-certified to operate on snow, grass, and wet earth. The PC-24 stands out from the competition thanks to its STOL performance. But it isn’t a one-trick pony. 

The PC-24 contains bleeding-edge technology inside, thanks to its proprietary avionics and flight systems designed by Honeywell and Pilatus. The system is named the Advanced Cockpit Environment and is based on Honeywell’s Primus Epic 2 system. It allows the PC-24 to be operated by a single pilot by reducing workload. 

Passengers in the PC-24 can also expect good things. The interior is designed by BMW Designworks, renowned for creating exceptional aircraft cabins. The cabin can carry a maximum of 11 passengers with a single pilot.

The PC-24 is powered by two compact but powerful Williams FJ44-4A turbofan engines, which produce 3,400 lbf (15 kN) each. More than enough grunt to access any airport the crew desires. 

General Specifications
Length 55 ft 2 in (16.85 m)
Height17 ft 4 in (5.4 m)
Wingspan55 ft 9 in (17 m)
Wing Area332.6 ft² (30.91 m²)
Maximum Takeoff Weight18,300 lb (8,300 kg)
Basic Empty Weight10,950 lb (4,985 kg)
Fuel Capacity888.5 US Gal (3,363 L)
Maximum Payload3,274 lb (1,485 kg)
Performance Specifications
Maximum Cruise Speed440 kts (506 mph, 815 kmph)
Stall Speed81 kts (93 mph, 150 kmph)
Service Ceiling45,000 ft (13,716 m)
Range1,800 nmi (2,072 mi, 3,704 km)
Takeoff Distance (MTOW, ISA, SL)2,690 ft (820 m)
Landing Distance (MLW, ISA, SL)2,525 ft (770 m)
Maximum Thrust (Each)3,400 lbf (15 kN)
Engine Model x 2Williams FJ44-4A turbofans
AvionicsPilatus Advanced Cockpit Environment (ACE) by Honeywell.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Why does Pilatus focus on niche aircraft?

Answer: Pilatus has turned a profit by focusing on and capturing a large share of many niche markets, mainly in military trainers and civilian utility aircraft. The choice extends back to the company’s creation when it first aimed to secure contracts to build training aircraft for the Swiss Airforce.
The company has put a lot of trial and error into its projects and abandoned a fair share of them but has distilled the experience to create highly specialized aircraft that perform well.

Question: Will the company make more mainstream aircraft with the introduction of the PC-24?

Answer: Pilatus built the PC-24 because their customers expressed interest in such an aircraft.
In comparison to the competition, it is still a niche aircraft. Only a few companies create business jets designed to land on gravel or wet soil. In addition, the company isn’t large enough to enter the market and take over market share from larger, more established brands. So it’s unlikely the company will create pure mainstream aircraft.

Question: How many aircraft has Pilatus designed?

Answer: So far, Piltus has designed 17 aircraft, eight of which never reached production. The rest have been military trainers or STOL utility aircraft, except for the PC-24, a light business jet.

That’s a Wrap.

There you go, a complete breakdown of Pilatus and all their aircraft, past and present. The company has gone from strength to strength, learning from its failures and producing aircraft that exceed expectations. It may be a small outfit compared to its competitors, but it continues to grow thanks to its unique approach and design philosophy. 

Related Read


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Hoyle, C. (2008, March 17). Switzerland special: Pilatus the success story. Flight Global. https://www.flightglobal.com/switzerland-special-pilatus-the-success-story/79288.article

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