Swiss-built business jet to compete against Cessna Citations

KCAC Aviation’s Angelo Fiataruolo stands next to Pilatus’ PC-24 business jet mockup at the 2014 National Business Aviation Association Convention.
KCAC Aviation’s Angelo Fiataruolo stands next to Pilatus’ PC-24 business jet mockup at the 2014 National Business Aviation Association Convention. Courtesy photo

Angelo Fiataruolo can’t wait for Olathe-based KCAC Aviation to receive its first Pilatus PC-24 business jet.

Fiataruolo, principal and general manager of KCAC, said of the first five PC-24s his company has been allotted to sell, four of them are already spoken for.

“These are very substantial, non-refundable deposits … so they are firm orders,” Fiataruolo said.

Pilatus’ first entry into the business jet market, the PC-24, will mean some competition for Wichita’s Textron Aviation and its Cessna Citation business jets. The PC-24 achieved first flight in May, and since then its test program has racked up about 100 flight hours, according to Pilatus.

Deliveries of the PC-24 are set to begin in 2017. In the U.S. those deliveries will begin in the second half of 2017, Fiataruolo said.

“It’s going to be a barn burner, same as the 12 has been,” he added.

The 12 that Fiataruolo speaks of is the PC-12, Pilatus’ single-engine turboprop that since its introduction in the U.S. in 1994 has been good business for KCAC, which has fixed-base operations at Johnson County Executive Airport in Olathe and Spirit of St. Louis Airport in Chesterfield, Mo.

KCAC is one of six U.S. authorized sales and service centers for Pilatus, a Swiss airplane maker. Its nine-state sales territory includes Kansas.

“The PC-12 has meant a doubling in revenue: from 2003 to today … we’re north of $50 million in revenue,” he said. “My forecast at end of 2020 – when I can order as many PC-24s as I want – we will have doubled again, north of $100 million (in revenue). So it means that much to us.”

Fiataruolo said the jet’s 500-cubic-feet cabin, a 1,950-nautical-mile range with four passengers, short takeoff capability on unpaved runways and a large cargo door borrowed from the PC-12 makes the PC-24 “just a lot of airplane for the money.” The list price on the jet is just below $9 million, he said.

Fiataruolo said he thinks the PC-24 will complete directly with the Cessna Citation XLS-Plus, while aviation forecaster Rolland Vincent thinks it also will compete with the Citation CJ4.

Vincent said Pilatus has a good reputation in the industry.

“It’s a very capable company,” Vincent said. “They’re privately held and very systematic. They kind of do one thing at a time, and do it very well.”

Vincent said Pilatus has built a strong following around the PC-12, noted for its low operating costs and high reliability.

“The customers who have bought them are raving fans,” he said. “And the aircraft hold their value better than any other aircraft in the market.”

That will make the PC-24 competition for Cessna.

“It’s definitely going to cause people to look,” Vincent said.

The challenge for Pilatus will be getting corporate flight departments interested in its jet. It’s a customer base where Cessna has made significant inroads, he said. Pilatus’ sales strength has been in the owner-operator market, Vincent said.

“It’s their first jet design, but they don’t have a lot of experience, a lot of success” with corporate flight departments, Vincent said.

Pilatus said in May it has 84 orders for the jet.

Reach Jerry Siebenmark at 316-268-6576 or jsiebenmark@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @jsiebenmark.