When the International Bureau of Aviation (IBA) attended the EBACE conference back in May 2013, we were impressed by the technical details of the Pilatus PC-24. Here was a business jet aircraft that would have all the benefits of its competitors’ products, yet also be able to fly from unprepared strips that are usually the preserve of propeller driven aircraft.
Jonathan McDonald, Senior Aviation Analyst at IBA, fast forwards two years to 11th May 2015; “The first prototype PC-24 made its maiden flight from Buochs Airport in Switzerland. We heard that for this test flight the aircraft had a take-off roll of just 2,000 feet and climbed to 10,000 feet in around three minutes. Not bad for a first flight! Early suggestions are that the aircraft handled very well. We understand that there will be three PC-24 prototypes, which will consume 2,300 hours of hard testing over the next two years. Apparently less than half of that testing will be done in Switzerland. To IBA, that suggests Pilatus will do a lot of the testing in challenging regions to make sure that the aircraft really lives up to the ruggedness associated with the Pilatus brand.”
“How timely and fitting that Pilatus managed to perform the first flight of its PC-24 just before EBACE this year and here in Switzerland. We wish Pilatus well with the flight test programme which is now set to follow. It will be interesting to see just how many PC-24s will actually end up being used regularly on unprepared strips, we suspect not that many. Either way, it is a bold move for Pilatus to make. It’s going to be a long wait, but we’re excited to see how the PC-24’s used trading values will perform against its more conventional rivals at Bombardier, Embraer, Cessna et al,” Jonathan continues.
Priced at US$ 8.9 million and stated to enter service in 2017, the Pilatus PC-24 will fall into Cessna Citation CJ4 and Embraer Phenom 300 territory. So how does IBA think the Pilatus PC-24 will stack up?
“Technically there should be no issues as Pilatus aircraft have often been associated with quality,” adds Jonathan. “In terms of residual values, its future value curve should more or less echo those of its rivals at Embraer and Cessna, providing the aircraft is well supported and proves to be operationally reliable. The true test will of course emerge once we see trading values though.”
“The PC-24 will bring the prestige of jet travel to UHNWIs (ultra-high-net-worth-individuals) and businesses, which were previously limited to Beechcraft King Airs and Cessna Caravans at remote strips. However, IBA would caution on one thing – how will residual values of those aircraft that have been extensively used on dirt strips hold up against those that have primarily been used on tarmac strips? Our experience is that aircraft used on dirt strips are more likely to kick up FOD (foreign objective damage) such as stones, which are likely to wear the paint down as well as damage the aircraft, resulting in repairs. These repairs appear on the aircraft records and are likely to influence the trading price at resale.”
There is no denying that the PC-24 will prove invaluable in countries like Papua New Guinea, India, Indonesia, Brazil and Kenya etc., where there can be large distances between cities and the only feasible air links are via dirt strips. “How often have we heard that the growth of corporate jets in India has been hindered by the lack of infrastructure in airports? The PC-24 addresses this, but despite these benefits, Pilatus will have to work hard to market the aircraft in more established regions, such as the US which remains by far the largest for corporate aircraft,” concludes Jonathan.
The IBA Group has three delegates attending this year’s EBACE, Ken Sewell – Head of Aircraft Transactions, Chris Lennon – Asset Management Director, and Jonathan McDonald – Senior Aviation Analyst.