What Does it Cost to Operate a Turboprop?

In the last of his series looking at the costs of owning and operating the various categories of business turbine aircraft, David Wyndham considers the cost of operating a single or twin-engine business turboprop…

David Wyndham  |  25th May 2020
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    David Wyndham
    David Wyndham

    David Wyndham has extensive expertise in aircraft sales and acquisitions, asset management, cost and...

    Pilatus PC-12 NG business turboprop in flight

    There is no single industry definition for the various business aircraft categories. Conklin & de Decker considers the cabin size and range. Business turboprops can be split into at least three categories, including Light Twin, Medium Twin, and Single-Engine...

    Business turboprops typically seat between five and nine passengers, have a step-down aisle to allow more passenger headroom, and a small storage space with a coffee pot and insulated drawer for refreshments.

    The Medium Twins and larger Single-Engine Turboprops may include a small lavatory. Cabin height with the stepdown aisle requires adults to stoop while entering and exiting (typically the height offered is 58 inches or lower).

    Meanwhile, the range in this class varies, and is often weight-limited in this category – for example, you can carry full fuel with limited passengers or full passengers with limited fuel and range. In terms of non-stop range with full seats, most turboprops offer between 600 and 1,000 nautical miles of range. Maximum ranges with full fuel can be up to 1,500nm.

    Most flights operated in this category are approximately an hour long, so even with seats full, the limited range tends to suffice.

    Aircraft typical of the Twin-Engine categories include the Beechcraft King Air series, Piper Cheyenne and Cessna Conquests. Mitsubishi MU-2s and Rockwell Twin Commanders also remain popular Twin-Engine turboprops today.

    Popular Single-Engine models are the pressurized models like the Pilatus PC-12 series, Daher TBM 700/800/900 series and Piper PA46TP series. While Single-Engine, unpressurized models like the Cessna Caravan and Quest Kodiak are most often flown in utility roles, there are also some with executive interiors.

    How Much Does it Cost to Buy a Turboprop?

    Acquisition costs for new models in this category run from $4m to $8m list price for Twins-Engine Turboprops. New Single-Engine Turboprops have a list price between $2m to $5m.

    Pre-owned prices for turboprops aged between five and 10-years old can run from $1m to about $3.5m. For turboprops older than 30 years, airworthy models can be bought for under $500k. According to data tracked and complied by AMSTAT, at the end of March 2020, there were almost 15,000 active turboprops worldwide, with about 1,200 listed for sale.

    Placing a pre-owned aircraft into service is likely to require additional funds. A buyer could spend $150k or more on upgrades, paint and moderate interior refurbishment.

    Major maintenance checks could also be due soon and must be budgeted for when the aircraft is purchased. Engine overhauls vary considerably across this category (partly depending on whether the aircraft has one engine or two). If the engines are close to their first overhaul then another $250k to $400k should be budgeted, per engine, for the overhaul.

    What’s the Operating Cost of a Turboprop?

    Operating costs for turboprops depend on their size, age and engine(s). Below are some averages from the Conklin & de Decker Report that we have rounded out:

    TypeSingle-Engine TurbopropTwin-Engine Turboprop
    Average Variable Cost Per Hour$555$1,194
    Parts, Labor, Major Maintenance Reserves, Engine Reserves$150$310
    * Fuel cost will depend of fuel price per gallon and fuel burn.

    What are the Data Costs for a Turboprop?

    Data costs will vary based on the type of connection, speed, and amount of data used, and where you fly, but Wi-Fi is becoming a more popular item in this class of aircraft – especially on the newer models.

    Maintaining internet connectivity ranges from an air-to-ground system (North America) or a basic satellite system. There are different installation and rate plan options designed to fit the needs of both the passengers and pilots.

    New installations for an airborne internet system can run anywhere from $100k and up. Monthly rates, based on data used and download speeds, can cost $1,000 per month for moderate use (depending on the plan and equipment).

    What are the Fixed Costs of a Turboprop?

    Fixed costs of a turboprop can be about $350k per year, including the following:

    • Salaries
    • Training
    • Hangar
    • Insurance
    • Refurbishment

    Salaries & Training: The pay for pilots ranges from $60,000 to $120,000 per pilot, depending on job duties and level of experience. Additionally, pilots will need training at least annually and that can run from $10,000 to $15,000 per crew member.

    Two pilots may be used for additional safety measures on single-pilot approved airplanes, or they may be required for charter operations. Many turboprop owners make use of their FBO and local service center for maintenance. If you choose to employ an aircraft maintenance engineer (or maintenance technician) the salary could be up to ~$80,000 per year. The engineer/technician can take care of much of the routine maintenance and handle maintenance planning and control.

    If the flight department schedule is complex and involves frequent changes and multiple individuals who can authorize use of the aircraft, a flight scheduler is recommended. Their salary can cost as much as $60,000 per year.

    All-in, two pilots and one maintenance engineer (with salaries, benefits and training) will cost over $250k annually.

    Hangar: You should plan on an annual fee of $20,000-$30,000 in rental costs for a hangar within a typical metropolitan area. Higher cost areas, like New York City, Hong Kong or Geneva will be significantly higher.

    Insurance:Budget approximately $20,000-$30,000 for insurance, depending on the aircraft’s value and liability limits. If the aircraft spends a lot of time outside of developed countries, those costs may be much higher.

    Refurbishment: Paint and interior refurbishment should also be considered. A new interior and paint job may last from seven to nine years with excellent care. Depending on the level of completion, materials, and any extra features, you should budget $150k to $300k for this work.

    Additional costs that can be incurred include acquiring aircraft technical publications for the aircraft and flight crew, and additional maintenance, office and travel expenses.

    In Summary

    If you’re considering buying and operating a turboprop for your Business Aviation needs, you should realistically factor an operating budget of approximately $575k for a Single-Engine Turboprop, and $825k for a Twin-Engine model, per year, based on flying an average 400 hours annually, excluding the costs of capital, taxes and depreciation.

    Read More About: Operating Costs

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    David Wyndham

    David Wyndham

    Editor, Ownership & Operating Costs

    David Wyndham has extensive expertise in aircraft sales and acquisitions, asset management, cost and budget analysis and finance fundamentals. With several decades supporting aircraft owners and operators in making fully-informed decisions about their aircraft needs, his expertise spans from the flight department to the executive boardroom.

    David is the founder of David Wyndham + Associates, and previously he was a Co-owner and President of Conklin & de Decker where he consulted with large corporations, individuals, and government agencies on their aircraft needs.



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