You’ll be able to buy a new Pilatus PC-24 in 2019
If you visited the European Business Aviation Conference & Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva recently and were thinking about buying a Pilatus PC-24, then you’re out of luck. Well, at least for another year that is.
When Pilatus unveiled the aircraft in 2014 it took the unusual step of running a live orderbook on a huge plasma screen above its stand. The screen showed details of who had ordered the aircraft and, if they had ordered more than one, how many aircraft they had ordered.
But rather than keep taking in orders, the company decided to close the orderbook once it had sold 84 aircraft.
It says that it had done this for several reasons. The most important of these, Pilatus says, is to avoid speculation.
The PC-24 has been one of the most-anticipated new business jets in recent times. It is the first jet aircraft that Pilatus has worked on and includes the rugged versatility of the company’s PC-12 turboprop, which has sold more than 1,600 units.
The PC-24 has two main advantages over its competition; it can land on rough unpaved landing strips, and it also has a large side cargo door. This makes the aircraft ideal for operations in remote regions and helped Australia’s Royal Flying Doctor Service to place an order for three aircraft.
But with desirability can come speculation. and Pilatus wanted to avoid this. When Gulfstream released the G650 there were clauses in the sales contact that disallowed the selling, or trading of aircraft positions.
With the early G650 transactions we saw that people were willing to pay a hefty premium to get their aircraft, with the first few pre-owned transactions costing the buyers more than a brand-new aircraft. Pilatus wanted to avoid this happening.
The second reason that Pilatus closed its book demonstrates the character of the company. Having not worked with jet aircraft before, Pilatus always said that it was on a learning curve, so wanted to learn along with the first customers and ensure that it was doing everything right.
The first set of customers have already taken delivery of the first aircraft. By the end of May 2018 a total of four aircraft had been delivered.
The first aircraft was delivered to launch customer, US fractional operator PlaneSense in January, and has already amassed over 300 hours, with 180 of them being flown in the first three weeks.
The latest aircraft was delivered to a Swiss businessman just before EBACE began, although the aircraft is registered on the San Marino T7 register.
For Pilatus, one of the keys of the successful entry into service of the PC-24 is the ability to protect the residual value of the aircraft. With the PC-12 the company has managed to do that, with the aircraft retaining much of its value in any later sales.
Ignaz Gretener, VP of general aviation for the company says that he doesn’t see the introduction of the PC-24 as having any effect on the residual values of that aircraft and the PC-12, although he does say that some turboprop customers are moving up to the jet.
“Of course, we will have a lot of PC-12 owners stepping up to the PC-24, but we have gone through the same process before when we introduced the PC-12NG. We had a lot of old legacy PC-12 owners moving up to the NG variant. So, we know how to do it. “For us it is always the long-term thinking, (residual) value is one of the key elements we will not jeopardise in the market just because of a short-term gain.”
Gretener says that Pilatus has a lot of customers waiting for the orderbook to re-open, and he believes that the company could be selling between 40 and 50 aircraft per year.
Deliveries of those aircraft will slowly ramp up as well, with the company expecting to deliver between 23 and 24 aircraft this year, 40 in 2019 and then 50 aircraft each year from 2020.
To cope with the additional aircraft deliveries Pilatus has invested heavily in infrastructure at its Stans headquarters. Already the largest employer in the region, Stans is home to over 2,000 Pilatus employees.
“We have invested heavily in machinery and in assembly halls. We will in-source the production assembly in another 200-metre-wide hangar near Stans, so we have really invested heavily” says Gretener.