Cessna Citation’s newest competitor arrived at Orlando Executive Airport on Wednesday for a one-day appearance and to an invitation-only crowd of about 100 people at the National Business Aviation Association Convention.
More than three years ago, Swiss airplane maker Pilatus announced plans to develop its first business jet, the PC-24.
The company has had huge success with its PC-12 single-engine turboprop. Since certification in 1994, Pilatus has delivered more than 1,400 of them.
Pilatus’ success has partly prompted Textron Aviation to come up with its own PC-12 competitor, the clean-sheet Cessna Denali, announced in June 2015 with plans for first flight in 2018.
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Pilatus’ first jet is entering into a crowded light-jet market that includes several Citations such as the CJ3+, CJ4+ and the XLS+.
Pilatus CEO Markus Bucher said at the Wednesday event that the company has 84 orders for the jet that the company says will be able to take off and land on unimproved runways. Nearly half of those orders are from U.S. customers, he said.
“We are very happy and very proud to have the aircraft here,” he said.
Pilatus is also investing in U.S. facilities. In Colorado, the company is building a hangar and administration building to support manufacturing completion of its aircraft. It will employ 150 people.
Scott Ernest, Textron Aviation CEO, said Wednesday that the PC-24 is competition but that jet buyers have other considerations when buying a new jet, including an airplane maker’s service network and parts supply and distribution. And he thinks Textron Aviation has Pilatus beat on that front.
“Competitors are always going to continue to come after the No. 1 manufacturer in the world,” Ernest said. “We’re going to stay in the lead and stay focused. … We’re not just sitting by doing nothing.”
Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark