- 01 Jun 2023
- Mike Chase
- Jet Comparisons
How do the Pilatus PC-24 and Embraer Phenom 300E compare side-by-side? What are the advantages offered by each model? Mike Chase analyses the performance and productivity of these two Light Jet competitors.Back to Articles
Over the following paragraphs we’ll consider key productivity parameters for the Pilatus PC-24 and Embraer Phenom 300E (including payload, range, speed, and cabin size) to establish which aircraft provides the better value in the Light Jet market, and to whom.
For many years Pilatus specialized in producing the venerable and highly popular PC-12 single-engine turboprop. But in 2013 it became clear the Swiss OEM had its eye on another market as it announced an audacious move to enter the Light Jet arena with the Pilatus PC-24. The PC-24 would enable Pilatus to compete for market share with Cessna and Embraer.
The aim for Pilatus was to create a jet with increased the range and speed offered by its turboprop model, while retaining the short runway capability and (a first in the jet industry) the ability to use unpaved runways.
The PC-24 received FAA and EASA type certification at the end of 2017 with deliveries starting in 2018. It’s clear that Pilatus did its homework – in the ensuing years, 216 PC-24 jets have entered service worldwide (as of this writing), with 186 being wholly-owned, 24 in fractional ownership, and six in shared ownership. North America was home to the largest fleet percentage (56%) followed by Europe (29%), accounting for a combined 84% of the fleet.
NOTE: An upgraded PC-24 was announced by Pilatus in October 2023 which will offer greater range and payload than the current version, along with various other enhancements (see below for more information). This improved PC-24 will enter service from serial number 501.
In this comparison, AvBuyer will focus on the current production model available on the new and pre-owned market, revisiting the upgraded version once it has entered service.
Embraer Phenom 300E
Similar to Pilatus, Embraer’s Phenom 300 represented the company’s first foray in the Light Jet market, providing a step-up option for Phenom 100 Entry-Level Jet customers. Today’s Embraer Phenom 300E represents a significant upgrade on the original Phenom 300 with a new interior design and upgraded Prodigy Touch Flight Deck with Garmin 3000 avionics.
A further upgrade to the Phenom 300E was announced in 2020, featuring PW535E1 engines, increased thrust, higher maximum speed (464kts vs. 446 kts), and slightly more range (2,010nm vs 1,992nm). Further avionics enhancements were introduced, too.
At the time of writing, there were 250 Phenom 300E jets flying, with 218 of those wholly owned, 25 in fractional ownership programs, and seven in shared ownership. By continent, North America boasts the largest fleet percentage (69%) followed by Europe (17%) and South America (11%), for a combined 97% of the world’s Phenom 300E fleet.
When comparing aircraft, an important area for potential operators to focus on is payload capability, and especially the ‘Available Payload with Maximum Fuel’. Table A shows the Pilatus PC-24’s Available Payload with Maximum Fuel to be 715lbs, which is less than the 1,586lbs offered by the Embraer Phenom 300E.
Table A: Pilatus PC-24 vs Embraer Phenom 300E Payload Comparison
Cabin Cross-Section Comparison
Chart A depicts the cabin cross-sections of the Pilatus PC-24 and Embraer Phenom 300E. As shown, Pilatus' PC-24 has more cabin height and width than the Embraer Phenom 300E. The Pilatus PC-24 also has a greater cabin length (23ft vs 17ft).
Chart A: Pilatus PC-24 vs Embraer Phenom 300E Cabin Comparison
The overall cabin volume of the Pilatus PC-24 is 501cu.ft, versus 324cu.ft for the Phenom 300E. In terms of baggage provision, while the Pilatus PC-24 provides more internal luggage volume than the Embraer Phenom 300E (90cu.ft. versus 10cu.ft.), the Embraer Phenom 300E offers 74cu.ft. external space, whereas the PC-24 has none.
As depicted in Chart B, using Broomfield, Colorado as the start point the Pilatus PC-24 offers marginally more range (2,030nm) than the Embraer Phenom 300E (2,010nm), with each jet flying with four passengers and available fuel.
Chart B: Pilatus PC-24 vs Embraer Phenom 300E Range Comparison
Note: For business jets, ‘Four Pax Range’ represents the maximum IFR range of the aircraft at long range cruise. NBAA IFR fuel reserve calculation is for a 200nm alternate. This range does not include winds aloft or any other weather-related obstacles.
Two Williams FJ44-4A-QPM engines power the Pilatus PC-24, each providing 3,420lbst and burning 160 gallons of fuel per hour (gph). The Embraer Phenom 300E, meanwhile, is powered by a pair of Pratt & Whitney Canada PW535E1 engines, each offering 3,478lbst and burning 158gph.
Cost per Mile Comparison
Chart C details the ‘Cost per Mile’ for each jet, and factors direct costs with each aircraft flying a 1,000nm mission with an 800lbs (four passengers) payload. As shown, the Embraer Phenom 300E has the lowest cost per mile ($4.75), which is 3.5% less than the Pilatus PC-24 ($4.92 per nautical mile).
Chart C: Pilatus PC-24 vs Embraer Phenom 300E Cost Per Mile Comparison
Variable Cost Comparison
The ‘Variable Cost’, illustrated in Chart D, is defined as the estimated cost of fuel expense, maintenance labor expense, scheduled parts expense and miscellaneous trip expense (hangar, crew and catering).
These costs DO NOT represent a direct source into every flight department and their trip support expenses. For comparative purposes, the costs presented are the relative differences, not the actual differences since these may vary from one flight department to another.
Chart D: Pilatus PC-24 vs Embraer Phenom 300E Variable Cost Comparison
At $1,541/hr, the Pilatus PC-24 shows a higher variable cost compared to the Embraer Phenom 300E ($1,365/hr) – a difference of $176 (+12.9%).
Table B contains the new prices (per B&CA) for a 2023 model Pilatus PC-24 and Embraer Phenom 300E. The long-range cruise speed and range numbers are from B&CA, while the cabin volumes, the number of aircraft in-operation, the percentage for sale, and average sold are from JETNET.
At the time of writing, the average number of new and used transactions (units sold) per month over the previous 12 months for the Pilatus PC-24 was five, compared to eight for the Embraer Phenom 300E.
Table B: Pilatus PC-24 vs Embraer Phenom 300E Market Comparison
A greater percentage of the PC-24 fleet was available for sale than the Phenom 300E fleet. There were 14 Pilatus PC-24 business jets available for sale on the used aircraft market, but only one showed an asking price ($11.595m), with most inviting buyers to enquire for pricing, and three inviting offers. By comparison, five Embraer Phenom 300E jets were available for sale and two showed asking prices of $11.750m and $12.990m, respectively.
While each serial number is unique, the Airframe Total Time (AFTT) and age/condition will cause great variation in the price of a specific aircraft – even between two aircraft from the same year of manufacture. The final negotiated price remains to be decided between the seller and buyer before the sale of an aircraft is completed.
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 can use accelerated depreciation of assets by taking a greater percentage of the deductions during the first few years of the applicable recovery period.
In certain cases, aircraft may not qualify under the MACRS system and must be depreciated under the less favorable Alternative Depreciation System (ADS), 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 is 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 any given year.
The US enacted the 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act into law on December 22, 2017. Under the new Act, taxpayers may be able to deduct up to 100% of the cost of a new or pre-owned aircraft purchased after September 27, 2017 and placed in service before January 1, 2023.
Nevertheless, ‘Transportation Property’ described in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) §168(k)(2)(B) and ‘Certain Aircraft’ described in IRC §168(k)(2)(C) will have a one-year delay in the phasedown. Thus, such property may still be eligible for 100% bonus depreciation if placed into service in 2023.
This 100% expensing provision is a huge bonus for aircraft owners and operators. After December 31, 2022 the Act decreased the percentage available each year by 20% to depreciate qualified business jets until December 31, 2026.
Table C depicts an example of using the MACRS schedule for a 2023-model Pilatus PC-24 in private (Part 91) and charter (Part 135) operations over five- and seven-year periods. Similarly, Table D depicts an example of using the MACRS schedule for a 2023-model Embraer Phenom 300E in private (Part 91) and charter (Part 135) operations over five- and seven-year periods.
Tables C & D: Pilatus PC-24 and Embraer Phenom 300E MACRS Tax Depreciation Schedule
The points in Chart E are centered on the Pilatus PC-24 and Embraer Phenom 300E. Pricing used in the vertical axis is as published in B&CA. 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. Four Passenger Range (nm) with available fuel
2. The long-range cruise speed flown to achieve that range
3. The cabin volume available for passengers and amenities
Chart E: Pilatus PC-24 vs Embraer Phenom 300E Productivity Comparison
Others may choose different parameters, but serious business aircraft buyers are usually impressed with price, range, speed and cabin size.
The preceding paragraphs have shown two very well-matched jets in the Light Jet sector, each offering their own advantages to prospective buyers. The Pilatus PC-24 comes with a higher purchase price (2023 model) and has a higher operating cost. For the higher price, operators have a larger cabin volume, slightly more range, and access to additional runways with unpaved surfaces.
The Embraer Phenom 300E provides users with almost twice as much maximum payload with full fuel, however, and a faster long-range cruise speed (385kts vs 358kts).
Would-be buyers will need a clear idea of their mission requirements, and which attributes are most important to their operations in choosing between these two aircraft.
Within the preceding paragraphs we have touched upon several of the attributes that business jet 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.
It is clear from the delivery numbers that these business jets offer great value in the market today, and with both OEMs moving to provide upgrades to their jets, they will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.
New PC-24 Offers More Range and Payload
Beginning with new aircraft deliveries in 2024, Pilatus has extended the payload range capability of its Pilatus PC-24 to achieve a maximum range with six passengers of 2,000 nautical miles.
The new PC-24 features a 600lbs increase in full fuel payload and maximum payload capacity, enabling operators to increase the PC-24's maximum range by 200nm with six passengers on board. Also incorporated into the aircraft are an array of new interior amenities, including a large side-facing divan which can be converted into a bed.
The new PC-24 will offer a full fuel payload of a single pilot plus 1,315lbs, and feature a maximum payload capacity of 3,100lbs. Bruno Cervia, Vice President of Engineering for Pilatus, explained, "The payload increase was achieved by refining both wing and fuselage structural elements to reduce the airframe empty weight while simultaneously increasing the maximum gross take-off weight limit”.
Pilatus engineers conducted an extensive flight test campaign to expand the entire envelope for the higher design weights. At the PC-24's maximum take-off weight, balanced field length at sea level is only 3,090 feet. Enhancements to the interior of the new PC-24 includes a reduction in ambient sound levels, noise absorbing panels, and tuned engine accessory air intake ducts.
Cabinetry, storage areas, and the Welcome Center have all been refined to optimize space in the PC-24's cabin. Meanwhile, Pilatus partnered with Lufthansa Technik to incorporate a new integrated Cabin Management System (iCMS).
More information from: www.pilatus-aircraft.com