Last week, Oriens Aviation announced that it had signed a contract with Pilatus Aircraft Ltd., extending its exclusive UK and Ireland Authorised Pilatus Service centre at London’s Biggin Hill Airport to the PC-24 — the Super Versatile Jet. It is currently the distributor for the PC-12 NG model in that territory, in addition to providing maintenance and flight training.
Oriens is marking its first year at its new premises at Biggin Hill and is supporting a growing customer base in the British Isles. While the PC-24 orderbook has yet to re-open, Oriens Maintenance has begun preparations on the technical side of things, preparing engineers for training and tooling the facility ready to support new customers. (The Swiss manufacturer started taking orders at EBACE 2014, where 83 aircraft were ordered.)
Pilatus carries out all its manufacturing, assembling, and completion at its Stans, Switzerland facility, where it also produces the PC-21 trainer. It has doubled in size over the past few years to accommodate PC-24 production and ramp up PC-12 production.
History has proven that it is essential for OEMs to keep growing and diversifying. However, it seems that Pilatus has always been very accurate at producing the right amount of aircraft to satisfy demand, so keeping residual values high. Tomorrow’s Pilatus customer is –today’s Pilatus customer, such is the loyalty of the brand.
Rolland Vincent, president, Roland Vincent Associates, said: “Pilatus prides itself on being a privately held, independently minded organization. It does exceptionally well and has chosen to carve out distinct and profitable niches to serve where it can either be alone in the segment or at least be the pioneer.
Edwin Brenninkmeyer, chief executive officer of Oriens Aviation, said: “The key is really knowing your customer, growing with them.”
He explained that Pilatus works with a network of sales distributors all over the world who focus on the sales process and interface with the customers in their regions to ensure the best service. “Pilatus right-sizes for demand and as a result it does not have white tail aircraft available wanting a home. We can place a PC-12 order today for a fully specced aircraft delivery this summer.”
Vincent said the manufacturer has made disciplined choices based on the cyclicality of the industry.
“Pilatus is disciplined about price discounting, as well as in its conscious decision not to. This really helps protect the residual value of the fleet. PC-12 owners are consistently blessed with amongst the strongest residual values of any aircraft in the business aviation fleet; the PC-24 is being positioned in the same way,” Vincent adds. (A 10-year old PC-12 will hold up to 80% of its resale value.)
One of the things that matters to owners and pilots is that Oriens is fully immersed in aircraft ownership, with Edwin Brenninkmeyer being an aircraft owner and pilot himself. His passion for the business helps the Oriens team sell aircraft convincingly and their closeness to their customers helps them understand exactly what each owner wants.
The PC-24 is a real game-changer with the capabilities for short-field take-off and the ability to land on gravel. It is currently being tested for grass landings. In layman’s terms, Brenninkmeyer says, “It’s bigger, faster and even better than the PC-12, with a unique large cargo door which opens up the market to multi-mission uses too.” He expects that some current PC-12 owners will upgrade to the PC-24 once Pilatus re-opens the orderbook, while others will operate both types.
Oriens’s current customers are all private owners. The love the aircraft so much they don’t tend to share its use. Despite EASA relaxing the rule on single-engine IFR regulations, we have yet to see a British Isles-based customer looking to get their aircraft on to an AOC for commercial operations, so far. Oriens runs an advisory service for owners looking to pursue an AOC and Edwin believes it is just a matter of time.
“We are very pleased to extend our relationship with Oriens Aviation to the PC-24. Edwin and his team have proved to be terrific partners, supporting the PC-12 since the outset, and naturally we endorse their credentials as a valued Pilatus-family ambassador,” commented Ignaz Gretener, Vice President General Aviation of Pilatus.
Oriens has also recently invested in an AOG swift response vehicle for airports and small airfields around the UK, which can hold any replaceable part of the PC-12, including a PT6 engine.