Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Pilatus PC12

This machine is a perfect mix of a general aviation aircraft and a corporate jet plane. 
Its ability to take off at full capacity from a rough airstrip with 4h30 of fuel endurance, climb to FL280 in less than 20 minutes and cruise at a speed of 240 kts is beyond any wish of a bush pilot. The ideal commuter for the national parcs to the main cities like Arusha or Dar es Salaam. With a 9 seats configuration it takes off with 30degree of flaps at around 60kts, really impressive...

Pilatus landing
The classic run for this schedulde take you from Dar es salaam at around 8h40 (African time) to Msembe, in the Ruaha Parc, 264Nm in 1h17. Then it continues to Dodoma eventualy (the central capital where there is not much happening). A quick stop over and off it goes to Arusha, the gate of the Serengeti, where people get their corresondances to lodges in a Cessna Caravan.

Cessna Caravan in Arusha
After a quick lunch and the Pilatus refilled with some 1700 lbs of JetA1, the flight goes back to Dar es Salaam via the Ruaha national parc again and possibly a few airstrip on the way. A day with 6 sectors is routine, a nice challenge when conducting single pilot operation.
The shortest leg is a connection between Jongomero and Msembe in Ruaha, 22 nm in 9min, a rocket climb to the top of descent. Nice & low flying over the river with a low wing airplane is unfrtunatly not that fun...

Fabulous PC12
A proper rate of climb at full weight can reach 1800ft/min till FL180 then it reduce progressivly to finish with 600ft/min before reaching FL280. Once up there, an average of 243 kts of groundspeed carry you smoothly to the top of descent, 1800ft/min to keep a 200kts indicated max when entering below 10 000 feet...it can shake quite strongly specially in Dodoma. Power cannot be reduce too much, it provides bleed air for pressurisation of the cabin so the only way to slow down when indicated airspeed reach 200kts is to reduce the descent rate, leading to a steeper & fast approach...a 3,6degree angle of descent in no wind condition sounds right, groundspeeds can reach up to 300kts with a bit of tailwind...

A quick overhead to check out the field condition, most of the time you land and take off on the convenient runway, due to some hill on one side, a slope gradient, or the apron location (Jongomero airstrip is curved on a hill top), the wind is generaly calm but becomes relevant when parking the plane, facing the light wind cools down the engine better during a 10 minutes turn around.

Pilatus Cruising
A proper final configuration is maintain with the use of the AOA indicator (Angle of Attack), this indicate you the angle of the airflow at the wing leading hedge. The overall trick for this plane is to set the power in advance according to the weight (pax + fuel left) and bring the all wheels & flaps down machine at approx 85 kts for a smooth & short landing. Using full reverse until a cloud of dust starts appearing, then full beta...just the the time to switch the avionics, pressu, lights & both generators off and the parking break is set, mixture cutoff & the prop inhibitor pressed (avoid picking up stones/particules during blade feathering).
Only after you opened the door, you notice the few giraffe and elephants standing in peace, eating some trees.

A charter here or there for fortunate guest to hunting reserve, the longest trip you can take from here is a 6h30 flight to reach Johannesburg, Victoria Falls is only 4h40 away...
Pilatus in Dar

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