- Switzerland-based Pilatus Aircraft recently delivered its first jet, the PC-24, a $US8.9 million private jet.
- The PC-24 is the first in a new class of “Super Versatile Jets,” or SVJs, which combine the performance of a jet with the versatility of a turboprop plane.
- It can land on and take-off from shorter runways than similar jets, as well as unpaved surfaces like grass, gravel, or dirt.
- PlaneSense, a fractional ownership company that took delivery of the first ever PC-24, recently invited Business Insider on a demo flight. Here’s what it was like to fly privately in the world’s first SVJ.
While a private aeroplane might seem unnecessary and unreasonable, there are a few compelling reasons to fly private – at least, if you or your business can afford it.
The number one advantage is flexibility. While this can be a convenience for most private flyers, it can also be essential for someone with constantly changing business needs and demands.
“Mid-flight, you can decide ‘actually, let’s go to this place instead’ and land somewhere else,” said George Antoniadis, founder and CEO of PlaneSense, a fractional aircraft ownership company. “On a commercial flight, that would be hijacking. On a private flight, that’s a standard day.”
Of course, owning a plane can require a major investment of time, energy, and resources. That’s where fractional ownership, which is what PlaneSense offers, comes in.
Fractional aircraft ownership basically means instead of owning an aircraft outright and having to manage maintenance, operations, staffing, licensing, and so on, you own a share of an aircraft which is managed by a company like PlaneSense. After purchasing the shares, you simply pay a monthly maintenance fee, and an hourly fee when you’re onboard the plane – that covers fuel and staff.
“Because we operate an entire fleet, there are no outages during maintenance, or when a pilot is out, like if you own and staff your own aircraft,” said Antoniadis.
PlaneSense, which was founded in 1995, has more than 40 aircraft in flight. The average age of the fleet is under five years, because PlaneSense frequently purchases new planes, and sells older ones on the second-hand market in an effort to keep its fleet top-of-the-line.
PlaneSense has had a couple of lite jet aircraft, but until recently has focused on turboprop – or propeller – planes.
In February, however, the company took ownership of a brand new jet, the first one of its model to ever be delivered.
The PC-24, made by Switzerland-based Pilatus Aircraft, is a natural fit for PlaneSense – and not just because the company already owns a large number of Pilatus turboprop PC-12s.
Although it’s powered by jet engines and has the speed, range, and maximum altitude associated with similar jets, the plane is able to land on and take-off from much shorter runways than any other jet – more like a flexible propeller plane.
Recently, PlaneSense invited Business Insider and other outlets to tour the PC-24 and take a demo flight. We flew from Teterboro in New Jersey to Chatham in Cape Cod, a notoriously short airstrip about 45 minutes away by air, so that the company could demonstrate the jet’s ability to handle runways like that. We stopped for quick lunch, and – almost to prove just how flexible private flying can be – Antoniadis offered to detour to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to tour PlaneSense’s operations center, rather than flying straight back.
The plane – which is equipped with speedy air-to-ground Wi-Fi – was surprisingly comfortable for a light jet, and was quite impressive – especially on those short take-offs and landings.
Here’s a look at the world’s first PC-24, and what it’s like to fly private.
This PC-24 — registration N124AF — was the first one ever delivered. PlaneSense took delivery in February this year, and, following testing, pilot training, and certification, began flying it for customers on March 30. The company has five more on order.
It’s the first of a new class of aeroplane called “Super Versatile Jets,” or “SVJ,” according to Pilatus.
It earns the “SVJ” moniker because it’s able to land and take-off on shorter and more rugged runways than similar jets — it can even safely land on non-paved surfaces like dirt, grass, or gravel.
An “SVJ” combines the versatility of a turboprop plane with the speed, range, and performance of a jet. The PC-24’s large-slotted, high-lift producing flap system means that it can fly low and slow like a propeller plane — it has an incredibly slow stall speed of 81 knots — which enables it to use those shorter runways.
The plane is powered by two Williams International FJ44-4A engines, mounted high up on the aft fuselage just under the aircraft’s T-Tail.
Its versatility isn’t the PC-24’s only competitive advantage over jets with similar ranges and capacities.
There’s also the cabin. At 500 cubic feet, it has a much larger interior than similar planes feature, making it a comfortable ride for the business and private set, and also a viable option as an air ambulance. It can be configured to seat 6-10 people, and can be easily re-configured as needs change.
The PlaneSense PC-24 is configured in an “executive setup” for eight passengers.
Each seat has a stow-able tray table off to the side, which can easily be deployed. When the cabin is configured with two seats facing each other, they can share an extra-large table, like here.
Because the plane is really meant for shorter regional trips, rather than transcontinental or transoceanic flights, it only has a small lavatory. The toilet is normally stowed, and slides out when needed. Retractible bulkhead doors come out for privacy from the cockpit and the rest of the cabin. The sink is just above and behind the toilet.
The cabin interior was designed by BMW. Seats are cushioned and comfortable, and can recline, and even slide towards the aisle if you want some more room.
The PC-24 is designed to be flown by just one pilot, although PlaneSense always staffs it with a captain and a first officer.
PlaneSense hires licensed pilots, and trains them on their procedures and the PC-24 for around an additional four months. That includes classroom study…
…And practice in PlaneSense’s custom-built non-motion simulator. They also send pilots for full simulator training.
You can order catering before your flight, although even if you don’t, the plane comes stocked with light snacks, drinks, and alcohol.
Overall, flying private in the PC-24 was an unbeatable experience. However, the biggest perk was obvious as soon as we landed.
No terminal, baggage claim, or crazy taxi stands. When you fly private, your taxi, car, or Uber can meet you right on the tarmac. After this test flight, going back to commercial coach is going to be tough!
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