Swiss Military Planemaker Pilatus Targets Business Jet Market

Pilatus Flugzeugwerke AG wants to sell its new PC-24 from 2017 as the Swiss maker of military trainer aircraft expands its private-plane offering to take on Embraer SA and Textron Inc.’s Cessna.

The PC-24 will cost $8.9 million and seat up to ten, Chairman Oscar J. Schwenk said today at the Ebace aviation conference in Geneva. First flight of the model featuring Honeywell International Inc. avionics and Williams International engines is due late next year, he said.

Pilatus, which counts the Singapore and United Arab Emirates air forces among its customers for PC-21 military trainer planes, already builds the PC-12 turbo-propeller for private use. The PC-24 marks the company’s first foray into the personal-jet market, where it will compete with products such as Embraer’s Phenom family and the Cessna Citation M2.

“The PC-24 is not a me-too product, it is much more,” Schwenk said in unveiling a model of the plane. “It is as versatile as a turboprop, offers space like a medium light jet, and the performance of a light jet.”

Schwenk said the design is based on customer feedback from some of the more than 1,200 users of its PC-12 propeller plane, who sought more speed and a bigger cabin. The company will start taking orders from next year.

Unusual for a jet, the PC-24 will be able to operate from grass strips and other unimproved runways with a take-off distance of 2,690 feet, or 14 percent less than rival offerings, Schwenk said.

“We aim to fill a niche market,” he said.

Parts production for the first of three prototypes has already started, with a goal of rolling out the plane in the third quarter of next year ahead of first flight. The two additional test models will combine for a 2,500-hour flight trial phase to obtain regulatory approval in 2017.