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Are you planning a trip to relax in the countryside or chill on a beach? Go with a turbo-propeller aircraft! Agile, fast, and comfortable, these airplanes cover missions that require landing on dirt or gravel runways. Jets are often unable to operate in those conditions due to the need for a larger and/or paved runway, making turboprops the ideal model for this scenario.
Here are some features and curiosities about two aircraft that are among the most prestigious in the sector: the American twin-engine Beechcraft King Air B250 and the Swiss single-engine Pilatus PC-12.
- The PC-12 has a lower operating cost compared to the B250, due to the absence of an engine and having reduced weigh, while maintaining a competitive performance to the later.
- Both operate well on unpaved runways, albeit the PC-12 has special landing gear for such a mission type that reduces the impact of the wheels to the cabin and consequently the vibration felt by passengers.
- Both turbo-propeller utilize the well regarded Pratt & Whitney PT6A motor, guaranteeing rapid ascent and a cruising speed of 280 knots (around 500 km/h).
- The PC-12 has a reduced approach speed when compared to the B250, allowing for a shorter runway approach, a wider range of potential landing sites, and lower fuel consumption.
- Both aircraft can be piloted in a SINGLE-PILOT regime, where only one pilot is necessary to operate the plane. However in Brazil, under the country’s air taxi rules, both aircraft require two pilots.
- Both models have impeccable safety ratings, being considered some of the safest turboprop aircraft in the world. Since their launch, both the B250 and PC-12 have had few accidents recorded.
- Regarding luggage space, the King Air can hold up to 7 large bags, compared to Pilatus, with has capacity for around 4.
- The Pilatus is equipped with a larger cabin, perfect for tall customers while guaranteeing more comfort during the journey.
Accommodating up to 10 passengers in the commuter configuration, up to 8 in the executive configuration, and up to 4 in the kombi configuration of executive seats + load (motorcycle, supplies, pallet), Pilatus PC-12 it is the airplane that comes to mind when one conceives of an SUV of the skies.
Proving that high performance is not exclusive to jets, this turboprop flies with maximum altitude of 30,000 feet, up to a maximum distance of 1,600 nautical miles, and with a cruising speed up to 285 kt (around 500km/h), thanks to the Pratt & Whitney PT6A engine of 1200shp.
The engine is located on the front (nose) of the plane, with a configuration of 4 or 5 blades on the propeller, which can be made of composite or metal material. In the cockpit, we find an extremely modern and complete suite of last generation HONEYWELL PRIMUS APEX avionics, with 4 screens of 12” each, controlled by a keypad located below the bottom screen, two main ones in front of the pilots (PFD), one in upper center of the panel, to show navigation and one in the lower center, showing the status of systems and warnings for the crew.
The aircraft possesses a sturdy fuselage with generous windows, a private bathroom, a smooth profile floor (without steps between seat and aisle), reduced cabin noise (extremely convenient on longer flights) and a trailing-link landing gear to soften landings on unpaved runways in the countryside or at the beach. In short, this plane will make you feel like you are in a jet from the moment you see its exterior until the end of your trip.
King Air B250
Speaking of multi-engines, the KING AIR B250 is easily differentiated from other aircraft. Boasting two reliable 850shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A engines on each wing, with 4 composite fiber blades, plus a tall T tail and extremely aerodynamic wings with winglets (a curved wing tip to increase efficiency), the KING AIR B250 is of comparable size to many light jets, and features robust reinforced landing gear for a trademark smooth landing.
The cabin is wide and very well distributed, with access to the luggage compartment during the flight and lots of natural light, coming from the classic round windows that improve the external look and provide an excellent view of the landscape throughout the trip. These details, in line with aerodynamic improvements, noise reduction technology, and cabin vibration, provide passengers and crew with an enjoyable smooth ride throughout the journey.
Manufactured since the 1970s, the King Air line was very well regarded in the market for its high speed and high ceiling, especially compared to light jets, that often feature inferior levels of comfort.
Regarding transport capacity, the aircraft, in the total seating configuration, can accommodate up to 7 passengers, with the lavatory seat being approved for takeoff and landings in some cases.
The B250 has a maximum range of approx. 1580 nautical miles, with a speed of up to 290kt (approx. 530km / h), at a cruising altitude of 35,000ft. These characteristics, when combined, are very similar to the performance of light jets, which do not have the same comfort as a large turboprop despite a much higher operating cost. In addition, in the event of a failure or defect in one of the engines, the aircraft is equipped to return to the nearest aerodrome, operating with only one of the engines.
The cockpit of this aircraft is equipped with a COLLINS PROLINE FUSION avionics suite, with 3 large touch screens (2x PFDs and 1x central MFD) in the most modern versions. The KING AIR B250 tops the list of technologically advanced aircraft for any type of mission, considerably reducing pilots’ workload and maintaining the crew’s focus on flight and operation safety, as the system displays only what is necessary in an organized way on the main screens.
As a whole, we can say that both aircraft have different characteristics from the same world — excellent models for missions of up to 4 hours, which can be extended depending on the customer’s needs within operational limits.
About the Author
Alison Basso, a pilot since 2015, is a pilot and the crew member of A32F.