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Pilatus PC-12 Sentinel of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Role Passenger and cargo aircraft
National origin Switzerland
Manufacturer Pilatus Aircraft
First flight 31 May 1991
Introduction 1994
Status In production
Primary users Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia
United States Air Force
Number built 1,778+ (by 2018)[1]
Unit cost
$3.3 million

The Pilatus PC-12 is a single-engine turboprop passenger and cargo aircraft manufactured by Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland. The main market for the aircraft is corporate transport and regional airliner operators. The U.S. Air Force's designation is the U-28A.

Design and development

Pilatus announced the development of the PC-12 at the annual convention of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) in October 1989.[2] The two prototypes were completed on 1 May 1991, with the first flight taking place on May 31, 1991.[3] Certification of the type was originally planned for mid-1991 but a redesign of the wings (increase of wing span and addition of winglets to ensure performance guarantees were met) delayed this. Swiss certification finally took place on 30 March 1994, and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approval followed on 15 July 1994.

As with many other Pilatus aircraft, the PC-12 is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 turboprop engine (the PT6A-67B). It is certified for single-pilot IFR operations, though operators may choose to utilize a second flight crew member. Pilatus offers the PC-12 in a standard nine-seat airliner form, in a four-passenger seat/freight Combi version, and as a six-seat corporate transport with an option for a seven-seat by adding a three-seat bench in place of seats five and six.[4] A pure freighter model is under consideration.

Pilatus PC-12

The PC-12M (Multipurpose) is based on the PC-12, but equipped with a more powerful electrical generation system that enables addition of additional power-consuming equipment. This enables the PC-12M to perform missions such as flight inspection, air ambulance, parachutist dropping,[citation needed] aerial photography, and aerial surveillance. This version is marketed in the United States as the PC-12 Spectre paramilitary special missions platform.

Pilatus announced the PC-12NG (Next Generation) at the 2006 NBAA meeting in Orlando, and officially launched it during the NBAA 2007 in Atlanta.[5] The NG features a more powerful Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67P engine with better climb performance and an increase in maximum cruise speed to 280 kts TAS. The NG also features a Honeywell APEX glass cockpit. The revised cockpit includes automatic pressurization control as well as cursor controlled inputs to the navigation system. The PC-12 NG winglets have also been modified from the original version.

Operational history

Pilatus PC-12 in landing configuration

Pilatus PC-12 at Centennial Airport in Colorado

Pilatus PC-12 Instruments and Sub-Panel

Commercial, corporate, and private use

Most PC-12s are used as corporate transports, but recent regulatory changes in Australia, Brazil, Canada, and the United States have cleared single engine turboprops such as the PC-12 for regional passenger transport operations in those countries. This opens a new market for the PC-12 as a regional airliner that would replace older twin piston-engine aircraft.

PlaneSense, a New Hampshire-based fractional ownership company, is the largest fractional operator of PC-12s in the world, operating 34 PC-12s.[6]

In 1994, the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia was the launch customer of the PC-12 and now operates more than 36 PC-12 aircraft across Australia.

U.S. Air Force operations

The U-28A is the United States Air Force variant of the PC-12 for intra-theater support of special operations forces. The 319th Special Operations Squadron is stationed at Hurlburt Field, Florida at the headquarters of the Air Force Special Operations Command. The 34th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) was activated on 9 April 2010 as the second U-28A unit at Hurlburt Field. Both squadrons operate as part of the 1st Special Operations Wing/ 1st Special Operations Group (SOG) at Hurlburt Field. The Pilatus PC-12 is also operated by the 318th Special Operations Squadron as part of the 27th Special Operations Wing at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico.[7]


Original production variant certified in 1994 has a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67B engine. Most, if not all of the /41s have been upgraded to /45s.
Certified in 1996 has a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67B engine, maximum take-off weight increased to 4,500 kg (9,921 lb).
Certified in 2005 has a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67B engine, maximum take-off weight increased to 4,740 kg (10,450 lb).
Variant certified in 2008 has upgraded avionics and a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67P engine. Sometimes known by its trade name PC-12 NG (Next Generation)
PC-12M Spectre
Paramilitary special missions platform marketed in the United States, originally called "Eagle".
United States military designation for the PC-12.


Pilatus PC-12 taking off from short, unimproved airfield

Starboard wing with winglet, weather radar, and de-icing boot


As of June 2010, more than 1000 PC-12s have been sold; most are used in the civil market.[8]

Present airline operators

  • Tashi Air
  • Nakina Air Service
  • Pascan Aviation
  • Wasaya Airways
United States
  • SeaPort Airlines
  • Surf Air
  • Royal Flying Doctor Service - operates 31 PC-12 for EMS/medical transport duties.
  • AirSprint Inc. (Fractional ownership)

Former airline operators

  • Bearskin Airlines
  • NAC Air
  • Peace Air


  • Western Australia Police - operate two PC-12s for staff transport, search and rescue and disaster relief.[9]
  • Northern Territory Police[10]
  • Ontario Provincial Police - PC-12/45 with a camera mounted under the fuselage
  • Ornge - operates 10 PC-12 NG for aeromedical transport[11]
  • Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service
  • Royal Canadian Mounted Police
United States
  • Customs & Border Protection - Office of Air & Marine (U.S. Department of Homeland Security)[12]
  • Phoenix Police Department (Arizona)
  • State Of Wisconsin - PC-12/45[13]


  • Afghan Air Force ordering 18 PC-12NG variants modified by the Sierra Nevada Corporation for special operations use. (Similar to USAF U-28A)[14]
 South Africa
United States

Accidents and incidents

On 22 March 2009, a PC-12/45 with the aircraft registration number N128CM, owned by the Eagle Cap Leasing of Enterprise, Oregon, crashed on approach to the Bert Mooney Airport in Butte, Montana.[20] The aircraft had departed from Oroville, California, and diverted from the original destination of Bozeman, Montana for unknown reasons. The NTSB recovered a computer memory chip from the aircraft that contained essential aircraft and engine performance data. From it, they concluded that icing in the fuel system had prevented the normally balanced flow of fuel from the wings. The pilot had delayed a precautionary landing until one wing was full of fuel and the other was empty, and then lost control of the PC-12 while manoeuvring to land.[21] All 14 people on board were killed: one pilot and 13 passengers, seven of whom were young children.[22][23]

On 8 February 2011 at 4:31, a Pilatus PC-12, operated by Majuba Aviation, disappeared from air traffic control radar en route from Queenstown, South Africa, to Plettenberg Bay. On Wednesday, 9 February, wreckage believed to be that of the missing plane was found just off the shore of Robberg Nature Reserve, close to Plettenberg Bay. Both crew members and all seven passengers, including Italtile CEO Gianpaolo Ravazzotti and Prima Bella MD Salvatore Di Bella, were killed in the accident.[24][25][26][27]

Specifications (PC-12)

RCMP PC-12, Winnipeg c. 2007

Weather radar on the wing of Pilatus PC-12 NG

General characteristics

  • Crew: one or two pilots
  • Capacity: 9 passengers standard, 6-8 executive
  • Payload: 1,500 kg (3,502 lb)
  • Length: 14.40 m (47 ft 3 in)
  • Wingspan: 16.23 m (53 ft 3 in)
  • Height: 4.26 m (14 ft 0 in)
  • Wing area: 25.81 m² (277.8 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 2,761 kg (5,867 lb)
  • Loaded weight: 4,700 kg (10,450 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 4,740 kg (10,450 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67B or -67P turboprop, 895 kW (1,200 shp)
  • Maximum landing: 4,700 kg (10,450 lb)
  • Maximum payload full fuel: 539 kg (1,189 lb)
  • Tail wingspan: 5.20 m (17 ft 1 in)
  • Propeller: Hartzell HC - E4A - 3D/E10477K – 4 blade aluminum
  • Propeller diameter: 2.67 m (8 ft 9 in)
  • Propeller RPM: 1,700 rpm


  • Cruise speed: 500 km/h (312.5 mph/270 KTAS/280 KTAS @ 20000 ft (PC-12NG))
  • Stall speed: 120 km/h (74.8 mph/ 65 KCAS/66 KCAS (PC-12NG))
  • Service ceiling: 9,150 m (30,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 512 m/min at sea level (1,680 ft/min)
  • Wing loading: 174.3 kg/m² (35.7 lb/ft²)
  • Power/mass: 3.7 kg/shp (8.2 lb/shp)
  • Range 0 passenger: 4,149 km (2,593 mi) (2,239 nm)
  • Range 9 passenger: 2,804 km (1,753 mi) (1,513 nm)
  • Takeoff distance over 15 m (50 ft) obstacle: 701 m (2,300 ft)
  • Takeoff distance ground roll: 450 m (1,475 ft)
  • Landing distance over 15 m (50 ft) obstacle: 558 m (1,830 ft)
  • Landing distance ground roll: 228 m (945 ft)

Honeywell Primus APEX (PC-12NG)

See also



  1. "Pilatus PC-12NG." Retrieved: 16 December 2012.
  2. "Booming Business." Flight International, 23 September 1989.
  3. "Pilatus PC-12 makes first flight." Flying Magazine, August 1991, p. 20.
  4. "Pilatus PC-12 Service Bulletin No 25-014, see section 1C(3)." Retrieved: 6 October 2011.
  5. "Pilatus press release.", 6 October 2008.
  6. "Planesense." Retrieved: 1 August 2011.
  7. "New Special Ops PC-12 Unit." AirForces Monthly, Issue 269, September 2010, p. 21.
  8. "Pilatus press release." Retrieved: 1 August 2011.
  9. "Western Australia Police Air Wing." Retrieved: 1 August 2011.
  10. "Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority Aircraft Register." Retrieved: 1 August 2011.
  11. "Ornge adds new high performance medically equipped aircraft to fleet." Ornge, 7 October 2008. Retrieved: 20 August 2009.
  12. "Office of Air & Marine ." Retrieved: 1 August 2011.
  13. "N395W." FAA. Retrieved: 1 August 2011.
  14. "Afghan SpecOps gets PC-12NG Transport Planes.", 12 October 2012.
  15. "Bulgarian military aviation OrBat." Retrieved: 1 August 2011.
  16. "Pilatus press release." Retrieved: 1 August 2011.
  17. "South African military aviation OrBat." Retrieved: 1 August 2011.
  18. "Swiss military aviation OrBat." Retrieved: 1 August 2011.
  19. "US Air Force military aviation OrBat." Retrieved: 1 August 2011.
  20. "Eagle Cap Leasing." Retrieved: 1 August 2011.
  21. "Aircraft Accident Report: Loss of Control While Maneuvering, Pilatus PC-12/45, N128CM." summary full reportNational Transport Safety Board, 12 July 2011. Retrieved: 26 December 2011.
  22. "PC-12 Seating article." Retrieved: 1 August 2011.
  23. "Montana plane crash kills 17." USATODAY, 22 March 2009. Retrieved: 22 March 2009.
  24. van Schie, Kristen. "Cause of Plettenberg Bay plane crash still a mystery." The Star, 18 October 2011.
  25. "Business Day Report of incident." Business Day, 9 February 2011.
  26. "Italtile CEO dies in plane crash." Moneyweb, 9 February 2011.
  27. "Preliminary accident report: Pilatus PC-12/47, 8 February 2011." South African Aviation Authority, September 2011.


  • Endres, Günter. The Illustrated Directory of Modern Commercial Aircraft. St. Paul, Minnesota: MBI Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-7603-1125-0.
  • The information on the U-28A was obtained from an official United States Air Force fact sheet

External links

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