Is this the world’s first ‘off road’ private jet?

The Aisle View

If I told you to combine luxury, power and off field performance, you would probably picture a generic SUV commercial during your favourite night time TV show. But what if I told you these adjectives belonged to a $9 million private jet?

In its’ 78 year history, Pilatus has only ever designed 15 aircraft (not including variations). Quality over quantity. All of which have donned propellers. Their most recent designs being single engine turbo-prop models such as the PC-12 (1991) and military PC-21 trainer (2001). Pilatus’ magic lies in their ability to produce rugged and reliable aircraft with the finesse and power that aviation requires.


PC-12 off road.jpg
A Pilatus PC-12 medevac operating in Australia.


The PC-12 is popular among operators who require short field or medevac capabilities due to its impressive performance.

Enter the PC-24.

The PC-24 is Pilatus’ first attempt at designing a luxury business jet. Yet they have stuck to what makes them – them. And in doing so have proposed a solution to mixing oil and water. Pilatus claim to have designed the world’s first SVJ or ‘Super Versatile Jet.’ In English this means that it can perform like a turbo-prop, look like a business jet and feel like you’re in a limo on the Las Vegas Strip.


PC-24 off road.jpg
The PC-24 demonstrating its off field capabilities. (Concept)

The PC-24 fully loaded and on a standard day, only requires 820m of paved runway to get it in the air. Compare that to its closest relative, Embraer’s Phenom 300, which has a runway requirement of 956m, and you can see a substantial increase in performance.

The aircraft is also off field rated, meaning the runway can be a dirt road or a grass field. Provided it’s long enough the PC-24 can use it. It also comes with a sizable cargo door for ease of access, which when opened reveals a pressurised cargo hold with 90ft3 of room. That’s – a lot.

Interior PC-24.jpg
The PC-24’s spacious yet luxurious interior. (Concept)

But why?

Private jet users fly between cities, not villages. An off road private jet sounds cool, but why do we actually need one? Aircraft such as the PC-12 and Cessna Caravan already do a respectable job accessing areas that are inaccessible.

There are indeed popular airports that current private jets struggle to get into. In the USA Black Rock (Burning Man) albeit 3 days a year, is inaccessible to jets because of its dirt runway. In Europe St. Tropez, on the French Riviera, struggles with anything bigger than a Citation Mustang.

Image result for black rock city airport
Black Rock City Airport on the edge of the Burning Man Festival.

An area that smaller airports in Europe often lack is facilities. Just because the aircraft can land at the airport doesn’t mean it is legally allowed to operate into it. Field performance means nothing when for example the weather is too poor, or the fire cover isn’t sufficient.

The PC-24 will likely become a private owner aircraft. Individuals with specific destinations or routes they frequent. To those who can afford it, the jet would be a nice addition to their collection. The PC-24 is single pilot certified, and with its impressive field performance and cushy landing gear system will prove a forgiving aircraft to fly.

The aircraft will also be attractive to medical charters that require large equipment or the need to reach a patient who cannot travel to the nearest suitable airport. It allows for faster transfers over longer distances.

It is a grand idea and an impressive accomplishment. But is it really as ground breaking as Pilatus claim it to be?

Professionally speaking the charter market probably won’t see a lot of the PC-24. Nevertheless it will be an interesting venture to follow and an aircraft I hope to see operational soon.

Published by Nicholas Combes



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