Pilatus Aircraft finally produced the last PC-6 Turbo Porter after announcing the model’s end of production in 2017, completing a 63-year chapter that began in 1959.
THE PC-6 IS FAMOUS for its utilitarian looks and for its short takeoff and landing (STOL) capabilities. It has been equipped with piston and turboprop engines and was also produced in the United States and China under license.
The first model of the PC-6, equipped with 300 hp piston engine, had its maiden flight on May 4, 1959. Two years later, the first Turbo Porter, powered by a Turbomeca Astazou II turboprop engine, flew for the first time.
Complaints about the Astazou II’s reliability and high fuel consumption soon followed, leading to the addition of the Garret Air Research TPE 331 engine in 1967, and later the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A in 1996, rated at 680 shp.
Its ability to take off within 640 feet) and land in 427 feet carrying a payload of 1,200 kg, made it popular for operating in remote and unique areas where previously only helicopters could access. Pilatus offered rotary-wing companies the PC-6 as an option for their fleets.
It can also operate on uneven, unprepared runways, in cold and hot climates and at high altitudes (which is why it is widely used in the Himalayas).
Several types of landing gear can be installed to allow it to operate in diverse terrain conditions, such as floats for water and skis for snow.
It has large sliding doors to facilitate the loading of 1,200 kg or ten passengers. The aircraft broke the high-altitude landing and takeoff record when it operated at an altitude of more than 5,750 meters on the Dhaulagiri glacier in Nepal.
All these attributes made it one of SA Flyer’s long running columnist’s Hugh Pryor’s favourite plane – along with the Twin Otter.