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Pilatus PC-12 NG versus Daher TBM 900

How will two market-leading single-engine turboprops compare?

Mike Chase
June 2, 2016
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Mike Chase
Mike Chase

Mike Chase has thirty-five year's extensive global managerial experience in marketing, sales and finance working in the corporate, commercial- airline and supplier aerosp...
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In this month’s Aircraft Comparative Analysis, Mike Chase provides information on two popular business turboprops. How will the Pilatus PC-12 NG compare against the Daher TBM 900?

Over the following paragraphs, we’ll consider productivity parameters (payload/range, speed and cabin size) and cover current and future market values for Pilatus PC-12 NG. The field in this comparative study is DAHER’s TBM 900 turboprop.

Pilatus has been building single-engine aircraft in Stans, Switzerland for over 70 years. The Pilatus PC-12/45 is a high-powered single-engine turboprop with a four-blade propeller. Certification was originally planned for mid-1991, but a redesign of the wings (increased wing span and the addition of winglets to ensure performance guarantees were met) resulted in a delay of nearly three years.

Swiss certification was finally achieved on March 30, 1994 and FAA approval followed on July 15 of the same year. The PC-12/45 was manufactured from 1995 to 2008, replaced by the PC-12/47 (manufactured from 2006 to 2008) and then the PC-12 NG (Next Generation) updated version that is being manufactured today. The PC-12 comes equipped with a passenger door and a cargo door and is available in several different configurations including six-passenger executive, nine-passenger standard, commuter, cargo and combi.

In total, there are 1,358 PC-12s flying at present. Accounting for only the PC-12 NG models, there are 540 that are wholly-owned around the world; 25 in shared-ownership; 27 in fractional ownership programs (accounting for a total of 592 PC-12 NG aircraft). Thirty Six of the PC-12 NG aircraft in operation are leased, according to JETNET. By continent, North America has the largest fleet percentage at 67%, followed by Europe (15%), for a combined total of 82% of the world’s fleet.

 

Pilatus PC-12 NG vs Daher TBM 900 Turboprop Infographic

US Flight Activity

Table A shows that the number of US based PC-12 NG flights increased slightly by 0.2% in 2015, versus 2014, but the distance travelled and flight hours declined in the annual comparison. This is evidenced also by a slight decline in the average distance and flight times.

Pilatus PC-12 NG Turboprop Flight Activity

Payload & Range

The data contained in Table B are published in the B&CA, May 2016 issue, but is also sourced from Conklin & de Decker. As we have mentioned in past articles, a potential operator should focus on payload capability as a key factor. The PC-12 NG ‘Available Payload with Maximum Fuel’ at 1,009 pounds is more than the TBM 900 at 584 pounds of payload capability.

Pilatus PC-12 NG Turboprop Payload and Range Comparison
In addition, Table B shows the fuel usage by each aircraft in this field of study. The PC-12 NG burns more fuel (70.2 versus 65.7 gallons per hour (GPH)) than the TBM 900, according to Aircraft Cost Calculator.

Cabin Cross-Sections

According to Conklin & de Decker, the PC-12 NG cabin volume is 356 cubic feet and its cabin length is 16.9 ft. The TBM 900 is considerably smaller in volume (143 cu. ft.), and shorter in length at 10 ft. Chart A shows the side-by-side comparisons, revealing a higher and wider cabin in the PC-12 NG, too.

Pilatus PC-12 NG Turboprops Cabin Cross-Section Comparison

Range Comparison

As depicted by Chart B and using Wichita, Kansas as the origin point, the PC-12 NG shows the same range coverage for the TBM 900, as sourced from Aircraft Cost Calculator (ACC).

Pilatus PC-12 NG Turboprop Range Comparison

Note: For jets and turboprops, ‘Seats-Full Range’ represents the maximum IFR range of the aircraft at Long-Range Cruise with all passenger seats occupied. ACC assumes NBAA IFR fuel reserve calculation for alternates at 200 nm for jets and 100 nm for turboprops. The lines depicted do not include winds aloft or any other weather-related obstacles.

Powerplant Details

The Pilatus PC-12 NG aircraft has a single-engine Pratt & Whitney Canada engine PT6A-67P offering 1,200 shs. By comparison, the TBM 900 also operates a single Pratt & Whitney Canada engine, the PT6A-66D, offering less output at 700 shs for the TBM 900.

Cost Per Mile

Using data published in the May 2016 B&CA Planning and Purchasing Handbook and the August 2015 B&CA Operations Planning Guide we will compare our aircraft. The nationwide average Jet A fuel cost used from the August 2015 edition was $5.25 per gallon at press time, so for the sake of comparison we’ll chart the numbers as published.

Note: Fuel price used from this source does not represent an average price for the year.

Pilatus PC-12 NG Turboprop Cost Per Mile

Chart C details ‘Cost per Mile’ and compares the PC-12 NG to its competition, factoring direct costs and with each aircraft flying a 600nm mission with an 800 lbs (four passengers) payload. The PC-12 NG shows the highest cost per nautical mile at $2.10 compared to $1.67 for the TBM 900. This is a 20.5% lower cost per nautical mile in favor of the TBM 900.

Total Variable Cost

The ‘Total Variable Cost’ illustrated in Chart D is defined as the Cost of Fuel Expense, Maintenance Labor Expense, Scheduled Parts Expense and Miscellaneous Trip Expense. The Total Variable Cost for the PC-12 NG computes at $581 per hour, which is 13.0% more than the TBM 900 ($514 per hour).

Pilatus PC-12 NG Turboprop Variable Cost Comparison

Aircraft Comparison Table

Table C contains the pre-owned prices from Vref Pricing Guide for each aircraft. The average speed, cabin volume and maximum payload values are from Conklin & de Decker and Aircraft Cost Calculator, while the number of aircraft in-operation and percentage ‘For Sale’ are as reported by JETNET.

Pilatus PC-12 NG Turboprop Comparison

The PC-12 NG has 4.4% of its fleet currently ‘For Sale’ and the TBM 900 has 4.9% for sale. The average number of new deliveries and used transactions combined, per month, for the PC-12 NG is three times higher at 12 per month over the TBM 900, as shown in the last column.

Depreciation Schedule

Aircraft that are owned and operated by businesses are often depreciable for income tax purposes under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS). Under MACRS, taxpayers are allowed to accelerate the depreciation of assets by taking a greater percentage of the deductions during the first few years of the applicable recovery period (see Table D).

Bonus Depreciation Schedule Part 91 Part 135

In certain cases, aircraft may not qualify under the MACRS system and must be depreciated under the less favorable Alternative Depreciation System (ADS) where depreciation is based on a straight-line method, meaning that equal deductions are taken during each year of the applicable recovery period. In most cases, recovery periods under ADS are longer than recovery periods available under MACRS.

There are a variety of factors that taxpayers must consider in determining if an aircraft may be depreciated, and if so, the correct depreciation method and recovery period that should be utilized. For example, aircraft used in charter service (i.e. Part 135) are normally depreciated under MACRS over a seven-year recovery period or under ADS using a twelve-year recovery period.

Aircraft used for qualified business purposes, such as Part 91 business use flights, are generally depreciated under MACRS over a period of five-years or by using ADS with a six-year recovery period. There are certain uses of the aircraft, such as non-business flights, that may have an impact on the allowable depreciation deduction available in a given year.

Pilatus PC-12 NG Turboprop Tax Depreciation

Table E depicts an example of using the MACRS schedule for the PC-12 NG aircraft in private (Part 91) and charter (Part 135) operations over five- and seven-year periods, assuming a new retail value of $4.857m, per Vref Pricing guide.

Asking Prices vs Age, Airframe Total Time and Quantity

Chart E, sourced from the Multi-Dimensional Economic Evaluators Inc. (www.meevaluators.com), shows a Value and Demand chart for the PC-12 NG. The current pre-owned market for the PC-12 NG aircraft shows a total of 27 aircraft ‘For Sale’ with nine displaying an asking price, thus we have plotted those nine.

Pilatus PC-12 NG Turboprop Value Comparison

We also added the pre-owned TBM 850 and TBM 900 business turboprops in our study group. The equation that we derived from these asking prices and other criteria used should enable sellers and buyers to compare, and perhaps adjust their offerings, if necessary.

While each serial number is unique, the Airframe (AFTT) hours and age/condition will cause great variations in price. Demand and Value are on opposite sides of the same Price axis. The market for New and Used PC-12 NG, 12/45, 12/47 as well as the TBM 850 and TBM 900 business turboprops responds to at least four features: Months, AFTT, Quantity and Asking Price.

A final negotiated price, however, remains to be decided between the seller and buyer before a sale is completed.

Productivity Comparisons

The points in Chart F are centered on the same aircraft. Pricing used in the vertical axis is as published in the Vref Pricing Guide. The productivity index requires further discussion in that the factors used can be somewhat arbitrary. Productivity can be defined (and it is here) as the multiple of three factors:

1. Range with full payload and available fuel;
2. The long range cruise speed flown to achieve that range;
3. The cabin volume available for passengers and amenities.

Others may choose different parameters, but serious business aircraft buyers are usually impressed with Price, Range, Speed and Cabin Size. After consideration of the Price, Range, Speed and Cabin Size, we can conclude that the PC-12 NG displays a high level of productivity.

Pilatus PC-12 NG Turboprop Productivity Comparison

Popular attributes of the PC-12 NG are its larger cabin and superior ‘Available Payload with Maximum Fuel’ attributes. Operators should weigh their mission requirements precisely when picking the option that is the best for them, since the TBM 900 costs less to purchase, operate hourly and offers a greater long-range cruise speed.

Maintenance Equity

Exclusive to our online content, the following Chart G displays the PC-12 NG’s Maximum Maintenance Equity available, based on its age.

Note: The Maximum Maintenance Equity figure was achieved the day the aircraft came off the production line – since it had not accumulated any utilization toward any maintenance events. The percent of the Maximum Maintenance Equity that an average aircraft will have available based on its age, assumes an ‘Average Annual Utilization’ of 290 Flight Hours and all maintenance being completed when due.

Pilatus PC-12 NG Turboprop Maintenance Equity

Summary

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, however.

The Pilatus PC-12 NG continues to be very popular today. Those operators in the market should find the preceding comparison including the Daher TBM 900 useful. Our expectations are that the Pilatus PC-12 NG will continue to do well in the new and pre-owned markets for the foreseeable future.

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