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At Cruising Altitude in 2019 and Prepared for Turbulence in the Future-Pilatus

Pilatus reported another very successful business year in 2019, exceeding the one billion mark yet again with turnover of approximately 1.1 billion Swiss francs. Operating income totalled 153 million Swiss francs, incoming orders amounted to 1.1 billion Swiss francs. Pilatus staff enjoyed a share in this success with a generous bonus payout – even in the current difficult economic climate.

2019 will go down in the company’s 80 year history as another very successful twelve months overall. The figures were very similar to those reported in 2018. Total aircraft deliveries came in at 134 – 83 PC-12 NGs, 40 PC-24s and 11 PC-21s – the most extensive production programme yet.

Successful PC-24 market launch

The market rollout of the brand-new PC-24 is now complete and Pilatus has well and truly left the build-up phase. 75 PC-24s have been delivered to date and are in use on every continent. The PC-24 with the most hours in the air has already flown over 1,800 hours. The order book re-opened in May last year and demand for the world’s unique Pilatus Super Versatile Jet remains as high as ever. The PC-24 has won prestigious new clients such as Volkswagen and KSA, the Swedish air ambulance service – important milestones in a programme which is still young as yet.

Pilatus PC24

A comprehensive post-certification test campaign was performed in 2019 to have the Super Versatile Jet approved for operations on rough field runways and in other conditions. All PC-24s are now authorised for use on wet and snow-covered unpaved and grass runways. In the same vein, other PC-24 product improvements have been made to eliminate initial teething problems and provide customers with extra added benefits.

Excellent response to the PC-12 NGX

Pilatus launched the PC-12 NGX in autumn 2019: compared to its predecessor, this further development of the world’s best-selling single-engine turboprop in class now boasts an improved engine, smarter avionics and a completely re-designed cabin with larger windows. The new PT6E-67XP engine by Pratt & Whitney Canada is particularly impressive: its electronic propeller and engine control system is a worldwide first in this market segment. After obtaining certification in 2019 and making appropriate changes to the production line, the market launch generated a large number of orders. This month saw the first customers take to the skies aboard their new NGXs.

Pilatus PC12 NGX

Major PC-21 order from Spain

Finalised in 2019 and signed in January 2020, the PC-21 order from Spain is a very important step in securing future operations. From 2021 onwards, Pilatus will deliver a total of 24 PC-21s to the Spanish Air Force, the Ejército del Aire. Spain is the third European air force to opt for this Next Generation Trainer. If the General Aviation Division is indeed heavily impacted by the current economic difficulties, this order will prove essential for Pilatus in terms of providing sufficient activity for the workforce and continued business success for the company. It also demonstrates the importance of the two-pillar strategy – civilian and military business – in guaranteeing future economic viability.

Pilatus PC21

Pilatus delivered the last of a total of 49 PC-21s to the Royal Australian Air Force in November 2019. This delivery – the final one for the time being – brings the worldwide fleet of PC-21s up to a total of 211 aircraft. An impressive figure indeed, and proof that the PC-21 is now the world’s most modern, most efficient training system.

Employee profit-sharing – nothing changes

At 2,289 the number of full-time jobs across the Pilatus Group increased slightly in 2019. The very good figures for the year deliver the most effective means of thanking Pilatus employees: from apprentice through to senior manager, all employees received their personal share in the profits for 2019 as usual. This year’s bonus, paid in April 2020, is equivalent to almost 1.5 times the respective monthly salary. This performance-related employee profit-sharing model is contractually agreed with the company’s own Workforce Committee and has been in place for over 25 years.

Turbulent times in 2020

Pilatus started the year with orders worth over two billion Swiss francs, not including the major order from the Spanish air force. But the corona crisis is bound to leave its mark, and the promising outlook of the early weeks of the year has had to be revised downward. Pilatus was quick to take appropriate countermeasures, including the introduction of short-time work for large numbers of staff. In the meantime, fewer than 20 percent of employees are still affected by this measure. Supply chains remain disrupted, necessitating continuous reassessment of the situation.

Oscar J. Schwenk on 2019 and the future

Oscar J. Schwenk, Chairman of Pilatus, commented on the annual results as follows: “I am very pleased with our performance in 2019. I note, however, that the corona pandemic has pitched us – and many others – into a period of severe turbulence requiring constant fact-based readjustment of our chosen heading. Every pilot learns how to make the all-important corrections to flight path and altitude. We are doing exactly, reverting to the basics, as taught from the first hours of flight instruction – encompassed in the term good airmanship: aviate, navigate, communicate. In other words, retain control of the business, apply an analytical approach to problems and, finally, define a fact-based plan of action and communication.

Under the leadership of CEO Markus Bucher, I have always tailored my management style to economising during the good times in preparation for the challenges of the future, all the time keeping our feet firmly on the ground – all entrepreneurs know that healthy liquidity comes before everything else! Specifically, that means paying realistic salaries, monitoring fixed costs at all times and distributing profits with prudence. Happily, our investors have supported this sustainable corporate strategy – one which we have deliberately kept free of external loans – for years.

We are not the only ones having to tighten our belts. In a situation which no one could have foreseen, it is reassuring to know that the financial reserves set aside in the past will ensure we are able to navigate the current crisis in preparation for a clean landing and a renewed take-off into the future, together. In the final instance, our business success benefits everyone!”

Alaska’s North Slope Borough Now Flies a PC-24 Air Ambulance

Operated by the North Slope Borough Search and Rescue Department (SAR) in the northernmost region of the United States, the PC-24 provides basic medical care for 9,800 residents across a territory of 95,000 square miles (246,000 square kilometres). Outfitted with tandem LifePort™ AeroSled™ stretchers and five passenger seats, it is the fourth PC-24 to be delivered in a medevac configuration.

The town of Barrow, Alaska, also known as Utqiagvik, is located at 71 degrees north latitude. The average temperature in mid-January is –14 degrees Fahrenheit (–26 degrees Celsius) and the sun does not rise completely above the horizon until early February. This region, with its exceptionally harsh conditions, will be the new home for the Super Versatile Jet.

Multi-mission capability

The SAR Department is responsible for delivering basic medical care to all North Slope Borough residents. The team performs medevac operations, search and rescue and other emergency missions.

In addition to the PC-24, which replaces an older light jet, SAR currently operates two helicopters and a fixed wing turboprop aircraft. All are capable of day, night, visual or instrument meteorological flight conditions in a medevac context. Many flights are operated from snow and ice packed runways with paved, dirt, and gravel surfaces – conditions for which the PC-24 was specifically designed.

Unique characteristics

April Brooks, Director of North Slope Borough Search and Rescue, explained the reasons which motivated the choice of the PC-24: “The PC-24 is a gamechanger when it comes to fast, efficient transport of critical patients across vast distances in our extremely harsh environment. Its unique cargo door, large cabin and ability to safely operate from short, unpaved runways make it ideally suited to our needs.”

At the handover ceremony held at Pilatus’ US subsidiary, Pilatus Business Aircraft Ltd in Broomfield, Colorado, North Slope Borough Mayor Harry K. Brower Jr. said: “We are delighted we can now offer residents a new level of capability to enhance their safety and well-being. In this region, fast, efficient, high quality medical care is absolutely essential, and the PC-24 will enable us to fulfil every aspect of that commitment.”

Thomas Bosshard, CEO of the Pilatus subsidiary, presented the keys to Mayor Brower and commented: “We are proud of the role our PC-24 will play in supporting the residents of North Slope Borough and the SAR team in the execution of their missions. We are very pleased to see such high demand for the PC-24 as a medevac platform, in addition to its popularity as a business jet. This is exactly the type of versatility we envisioned when we began designing the PC-24 – and now it is a reality.”

PC-24 Rough Field Certification Campaign Brought to a Successful Conclusion

Pilatus obtained certification for take-offs and landings on grass, wet earth and snow, making the PC-24 the world’s most flexible business jet ever.

Pilatus has now obtained full rough field certification for the PC-24 Super Versatile Jet. Certification for operations on dry sand and gravel was delivered in 2018.

A comprehensive post-certification test campaign was conducted throughout 2019 to certify the Super Versatile Jet for operation on unpaved runways and in differing conditions. With immediate effect, all PC-24s may now also be operated on wet and snow-covered unpaved runways.

Twice as many airports – just with the PC-24

The PC-24 was developed for use on rough field from the outset. Its outstanding performance on short and unpaved runways opens up an amazing degree of flexibility and new possibilities. Compared to other business jets currently on the market, the PC-24 provides access to almost twice as many airports worldwide. More airports mean more options – taking operators to their destinations faster, with valuable time-savings.

Pilatus Chairman Oscar J. Schwenk adds: ‟I’m delighted to note the successful completion of these comprehensive tests. Our PC-24 has proven that it is capable of flying the full range of missions for which it was developed.

The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia and operators in North America or Africa already use rough field runways on a regular basis, proving just how unique the PC-24 is – that sort of capability is only available with the Pilatus Super Versatile Jet!”

Tests across the world

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) requires tests for the certification of take-off and landing capability to be carried out on different runways. After careful evaluation of local conditions, tests were made at locations across America and Europe.

The excellent runway in Goodwood, England was selected for the tests on dry grass. Further tests on grass runways were carried out at Kunovice in the Czech Republic, at Poitiers in France and at Duxford, England.

At Woodbridge, England, complex conditions were reproduced in part in order to meet all test specifications for take-offs and landings on wet dirt surfaces. The PC-24 was also flown in North America: tests on snow-covered gravel runways were performed at Kuujjuaq in Canada.

Swiss Air Ambulance Challager 650 Lands at Cape Town International Airport

A lone Swiss Air Ambulance Challager 650 landed at Cape Town International Airport yesterday. The reason is not yet known but some sources indicating a possible medical evacuation of a Swiss National with possible COVID-19 symptoms!

Swiss Air-Rescue is a private, non-profit air rescue service that provides emergency medical assistance in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Rega was established on 27 April 1952 by Dr Rudolf Bucher, who believed the Swiss rescue organization needed a specialized air sub-secti.

The Challenger 650 is the updated version of the Challenger 605. The Challenger 650 features 2 additional executive seats to accommodate up to 12 passengers, upgraded engines offering a higher thrust rate to reduce takeoff field length, and larger appliances in the galley to assist with faster meal preparation.

Hundreds of Swiss travellers remain blocked abroad due to Covid-19 restrictions and cancelled flights. Travel operators and the foreign ministry are working to find ways to get them home. 

“We still have several hundred clients abroad who want to get back to Switzerland. We’re doing our best to find flights for them,” Bianca Gähweiler of Hotelplan Suisse told the Keystone-SDA news agency on Wednesday. 

The travel agent is scrambling to find solutions for clients in locations such as Morocco, South Africa, and Ukraine, where travel bans are in place for people from Switzerland. 

The foreign ministry, meanwhile, has called on Swiss travelling abroad to try to return as soon as possible due to the pandemic, but has reiterated that the costs of flights and other expenses must be borne by individuals. There is no legal basis for an organised repatriation. 

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