Monday, 6 May 2019. A significant day in the PC-24 history book: the first ever landing of a PC -24 on an unpaved airstrip by a customer. This historic feat was the culmination of over ten years of design and development by Pilatus and it showcased the extraordinary capabilities of the world’s first Super Versatile Jet. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd
The PC-24 serial number 118 is operated by the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS Central Operations) in Adelaide, Australia. In February 1995, RFDS was one of the first customers in the world to operate the PC-12 onto an unpaved airstrip.
Fast forward 24 years and less than a week after taking delivery of its first PC-24, RFDS Central Operations (RFDSCO) showed the world that Pilatus keeps its promises! In this case, to deliver a jet capable of operating from a gravel airstrip. On hand to witness the historic landing were RFDS staff along with television and print media partners of the organisation – Pilatus was there too.
A picture-book landing
Kingoonya is a small township in the centre of South Australia with a permanent population of just twelve people. For once, however, it was the centre of all attention! The airstrip had been professionally surveyed and cleared for the operation by RFDSCO after undergoing a stringent risk assessment. The weather was the only thing we had to leave to chance!
Thankfully the weather held out and the support PC-12 aircraft was able to depart for Kingoonya with all of the necessary staff and film equipment on board. The plan was to arrive first with the PC-12 and give the film crews enough time to setup in strategic locations prior to the PC-24 arriving. With everyone in place and punctual as a Swiss watch, the PC-24 duly appeared overhead and prepared to complete the historic landing.
The PC-24 flight crew consisted of RFDSCO Chief Pilot Damien Heath and Christoph Meyer from the Pilatus Flight Department in Stans. With pressure to get the landing correct, Damien and Christoph slowed the PC-24 and gently eased it onto the dusty airstrip to a loud applause from all those watching.
The landing solicited enthusiastic praise from chief pilot Damien Heath: “Fantastic, the aircraft performed exactly as advertised! Before the flight we looked at all aspects of the landing and subsequent manoeuvring on the strip – our biggest concern were the tight turns required at the runway ends, but our reservations were unfounded. Even on the softer edges of the strip we hardly left a mark in the dirt. Incredible!”
A milestone on the unpaved strip
And so it was that history was written in the Australian Outback in early May. The PC-24 was finally at home in Australia, marking another milestone in the PC-24’s award-winning achievements and an important day in RFDSCO’s operations. The PC-24 will no doubt go on to carry out many more landings on unpaved runways around the world. We look forward to that and hope that the footage and images from the vast Outback will help reinforce recognition of the PC-24 – and the important role it can play as an airborne lifesaver!