A recent invitation to the low-key-luxurious Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle in the Scottish Highlands doubled as an opportunity to experience one of the most versatile small to medium sized private aircraft on the market in the form of the Pilatus PC-12, the brilliant, single-engined turbo prop that effectively created a new class when it first went into production back in 1994.
Pilatus, Switzerland’s only aircraft manufacturer, originally introduced the PC-12 as an all-round ‘plane with an impressively large cargo capacity that proved especially useful for military and emergency applications.
This is not least because of its ability to land and take off in short distances on un-mettled surfaces – a feature ably demonstrated during our trip to Skibo when problems with the runway at the usual landing spot led to the discovery of the tiny Easter airfield near Tain, surely one of the most picturesque in Scotland, if not the whole of the UK.
Affording magnificent approach views of the sea, Dornoch Firth and Whiteness Sands, it is privately owned by aviation fan David Munro who operates the airfield as a hobby and, remarkably, makes no charge for landing or ‘parking’ there.
The grass strip was extended to 900 metres in May and will take most 10-seater aircraft, with people often (well, maybe not that often) making use of it in order to explore the nearby attractions include Loch Ness, Glenmorangie House country house hotel and the Glenmorangie distillery.
As our pilot Edwin Brenninkmeyer fully committed to the landing, I couldn’t help thinking that the PC-12 was perhaps, rather large to be depositing on a strip of turf that didn’t appear much longer than a par three fairway.
Yet, seconds later, and with barely a noticeable bump, we were being welcomed to Scotland by a kilt-clad piper especially laid-on by Munro (who, like many aircraft buffs, rates the PC-12 as one of the best private ‘planes on the planet).
It is the usefulness and adaptability of the PC-12 that has made it popular as a more low-key – yet decidedly cool-looking – alternative to a jet aircraft among business and private users, who also appreciate its exceptional safety record, multiple configuration options, low running costs and high residual values.
It also offers virtually bullet-proof reliability thanks to its powerful and economical Pratt and Whitney turboprop engine.
A state-of-the-art Honeywell Primus Apex touchscreen avionics suite was developed especially for the ‘plane, and myriad interior configurations enable it to be built as anything from an eight-seater executive aircraft to a ‘combi’ layout capable of carrying a family of four and a wheeled vehicle as large as a high-end quad bike.
Which is something you might need on landing, considering the unlikely places a PC-12 could take you…
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