In this month’s Aircraft Comparative Analysis, Mike Chase provides information on two popular business turboprops – one a single-engine model, and the other a twin-engine model - for the purpose of valuing the pros and cons of each.
How does the twin-engine Beechcraft King Air 350i turboprop compare to the single-engine Pilatus PC-12 NG turboprop in the market today? Over the following paragraphs, we’ll consider productivity parameters (Payload, Range, Speed and Cabin Size) and cover current market values.
Is a single-engine or twin-engine turboprop the better choice for your mission needs? We’ll explore the merits of each over the following paragraphs…
King Air 350i
The King Air family has been in continuous production since 1974, the longest production run of any civilian turboprop aircraft in its class. The first King Air 350 deliveries occurred in 1990 as the ‘Super’ King Air 350, and the King Air 350 was built until 2009.
The King Air 350 is essentially a model 300 with a 34-inch fuselage stretch; two additional cabin windows on each side; 41ins wing span increase; drag-reducing winglets (for extra range); and 1,000lbs additional MGTOW.
The model 350i is a derivation of the original model 350 featuring a "FlexCabin" configuration that can be swapped easily for a variety of missions such as passenger transport, cargo, air ambulance or other special missions. The King Air 350i also boasts a quieter cabin with sound levels reduced to an average of 78dBA.
Pilatus PC-12 NG
The Pilatus PC-12/45 is a high-powered single-engine turboprop with a four-blade propeller. The first flight of the first of two prototypes took place in 1991. Swiss and US certification was received in 1994.
The PC-12/45 was manufactured from 1995 to 2008; the PC-12/47 was manufactured between 2006 and 2008; and the PC-12 NG (Next Generation) is the updated version, starting at serial number 1,001 in 2008. The cockpit is equipped with Honeywell Apex Avionics.
The PC-12 NG is equipped with both a passenger door and a cargo door, and is available in several configurations, including six-passenger executive, nine-passenger standard, or commuter, cargo and combi. It is also certified for single-pilot operation.
The total number of PC-12 NG aircraft manufactured (as of this writing) is 798, with 754 remaining in operation globally (per JETNET). 688 are wholly owned, 33 are in shared ownership and 39 in fractional ownership. Two have been retired.
As of April 2018, the PC-12 NG market is comprised of 72% flying with the same owner since new versus 28% purchased on the used aircraft market. Just 3.9% of the fleet is currently ‘For Sale’ and the average time on the market is 180 days.
By comparison, 398 King Air 350i aircraft have been built, with 363 in operation globally. 360 are wholly-owned with three in fractional ownership. Six have been retired.
As of April 2018, the King Air 350i market is comprised of 84% flying with the same owner since new versus 16% purchased on the used market. The fleet percentage currently ‘For Sale’ is just 2.8%. Average time on the market before a sale is completed is 255 days.
North America is home to the majority of the PC-12NG and King Air 350i fleet (accounting for 66% of each), whereas next, the PC-12 NG has 17% of its fleet based in Europe while the King Air 350i has 16% in Asia.
Status of ADS-B Out Equipage
Of the 760 PC-12 NGs worldwide, 208 (27%) are ADS-B equipped, leaving 73% of the fleet yet to comply. Meanwhile, 134 (37%) of the 363 King Air 350i fleet is ADS-B equipped. That leaves 63% yet to comply.
Payload & Range
As we have mentioned in past articles, a potential operator should focus on payload capability as a key factor. Table A shows the King Air 350i ‘Available payload with Maximum Fuel’ (2,500lbs) is greater than that offered by the Pilatus PC-12 NG (2,257lbs), per Conklin & de Decker.
TABLE A - King Air 350i vs Pilatus PC-12 NG Payload & Range Comparisons
Note: For turboprops, ‘four passengers with available fuel’ represents the maximum IFR range of the aircraft at Long-Range Cruise with four passenger seats occupied. NBAA IFR fuel reserve calculation for a 100nm alternate is assumed. The lines depicted do not include winds aloft or any other weather-related obstacles.
The Pilatus PC-12 NG aircraft has a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67P offering 1,200shp. The King Air 350i aircraft utilizes two PT6A-60A engines, rated at 1,050shp.
Total Variable Cost
The ‘Total Variable Cost’ illustrated in Chart C (per Conklin & de Decker), is defined as the Cost of Fuel Expense, Maintenance Labor Expense, Scheduled Parts Expense and Miscellaneous Trip Expense. The Total Variable Cost for the twin-engine King Air 350i computes at $1,277 per hour, which is considerably more than the single-engine PC-12 NG ($774 per hour).
The King Air 350i is offered at a much higher price $6.5m ($1.8m more than the PC-12 NG), with nearly the same range and cabin volume. The King Air 350i does have a higher ‘Available payload with Maximum Fuel’ number, and a greater long-range cruise speed (234kts versus 209kts).
However, the PC-12 NG has considerably lower variable cost per hour with one engine and one pilot compared to the twin-engine King Air 350i with two pilots.
Operators should weigh up their mission requirements precisely when picking which option is the best for them.
Within the preceding paragraphs we have touched upon several of the attributes that business aircraft operators value. There are other qualities such as airport performance, terminal area performance, and time to climb that might factor in a buying decision.
The King Air 350i and PC-12 NG continue to be popular today. Those operators in the market should find the preceding comparison useful in establishing not only which model is the most appropriate for their individual mission needs, but whether one engine or two will suffice.