Pilatus Aircraft

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Pilatus Aircraft
Founded10 December 1939
Area served
Key people
Markus Bucher (CEO)
Oscar J. Schwenk (Chairman)
ProductsFixed wing aircraft
Revenue$1.07billion 2018[1]
$154.5 million 2018[1]
Number of employees
1905 (June 2016)

Pilatus Aircraft Ltd. is an aerospace manufacturer located in Stans, Switzerland. In June 2016, the company employed 1,905 people.[2]

The company has mostly produced aircraft for niche markets, in particular short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft as well as military training aircraft. During the 1950s and 1960s, Pilatus developed on a short takeoff and landing (STOL) light civil transport aircraft, the PC-6 Porter. During 1973, it was decided to restart work on the PC-7 programme; it entered production as the PC-7 Turbo Trainer. In 1979, Pilatus acquired Britten-Norman, constructor of the Britten-Norman Islander and Britten-Norman Defender aircraft. During the 1980s, it developed the PC-9, an improved derivative of the PC-7.

During the 1990s, Pilatus opened up a broader civilian market with the introduction of the PC-12, a single-engine turboprop aircraft of which it has produced over 1,000 units to date. In the 2000s, it also introduced a new member family of its military training aircraft, the turboprop-powered PC-21. During the 2010s, the company developed the PC-24, a twin-engined STOL jet aircraft capable of operating from unpaved runways.


The PC-6 Porter was Pilatus' first aircraft to achieve widespread international success.
A Royal Malaysian Air Force Pilatus PC-7 Mk2


The company was established on 10 December 1939 by the armament company Oerlikon-Bührle, and construction of a new production building started in March 1940. The company was formed to do maintenance and repairs for the Swiss Air Force, the first work of the new company was assembly of EKW C-35 reconnaissance biplanes from spare parts, and overhaul work on other types.[3]

The first design project was a single-seat trainer, designated the P-1, although it was abandoned before being built.[3] The next project was the construction of the SB-2 Pelican which had been designed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.[3] The SB-2 first flew on 30 May 1944 only one of the five-seat light transports were built.[3]

In 1942, the company won a contract from the Swiss military to modify 33 EKW C-3603.[3] Following on from the abandoned P-1 design, the company started again on the development of a two-seat trainer, designated the P-2.[3] The P-2 first flew on 27 April 1945, and the company won an order for the Swiss Air Force.[3]

During 1945, the company produced a prototype single-engined light transport, designated the P-4; this aircraft made its first flight on 22 March 1948, but only the one P-4 was ultimately completed.[3] During the late 1940s, the company produced a number of wooden glider designs; it also handled the production of fuselages and tail-booms for the licence-produced De Havilland Vampire and Venom.[3]


During 1951, the company worked on the P-5, a design project for an artillery observation aircraft; it was not built.[3] The P-3 was put into quantity production for the Swiss Air Force; the company also achieved its first export order with the type, to deliver a batch of six P-3s to the Brazilian Navy.[3]

During 1958, Pilatus began design work on a short takeoff and landing (STOL) light civil transport aircraft which emerged as the PC-6 Porter; this aircraft first flew on 4 May 1959.[3][4] The Porter was also manufactured under license by Fairchild Hiller in the United States. Roughly 100 of these licence-produced aircraft would be completed, being mainly purchased by civil operators within the US.[5][6]


The initial turbine-powered models of the PC-6 were equipped with the Astazou II powerplant, however complaints of the reliability of this engine were made. Another early turboprop powerplant that became available for the PC-6 was the Garrett Air Research TPE 331. Some operators such as Air America chose to retrofit their Astazou II-powered PC-6s with the TPE 331 engine in its place.[5] Both the piston and turbine-engine versions of the PC-6 became quickly known for their Short Takeoff and Landing (STOL) capabilities, requiring only a very short takeoff run before being ready for rotation prior to taking off.[7]

Furthermore, during 1965, a twin-engined variant of the PC-6 was built as the PC-8 Twin Porter, although it first flew on 15 November 1967, the aircraft remained an experimental and one-off type, and development was stopped in 1972.[3] Another project, the PC-10, a 16-passenger twin-engined transport, was also kicked off by the company; however, it was not ultimately put into production.[3]

In 1966, a turboprop-powered variant of the P-3 was flown, and was designated the PC-7.[3] This aircraft was lost in a crash, leading to development of the type being put on hold until the 1970s.[3][8] The termination of work was reportedly driven by a lack of market interest at that time.[9]


In a departure from the production of trainers and Porters, the company bought the rights to the all-metal B-4 glider; Pilatus re-designed the B-4 for easier production and redesignated at the B-4/PC-11.[3] The PC-11 first flew on 5 May 1972 and the company went on to build 322.[citation needed]

During 1973, it was decided to restart work on the PC-7 programme; factors for its revival had included the 1973 oil crisis, the launch of the rival Beechcraft T-34C Turbo-Mentor, and the increasing age of existing trainer aircraft.[9] In 1975, a further PC-7 prototype was flown; following further development, it entered production as the PC-7 Turbo Trainer.[3] On 12 August 1978, the first production standard aircraft made its first flight; on 5 December of that year, Switzerland's Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) issued civil certification for the PC-7.[9] Over time, sales of the PC-7 generated considerable profits, allowing the company to finance the development of further types of aircraft.[10]

In 1979, Pilatus acquired Britten-Norman, constructor of the Britten-Norman Islander and Britten-Norman Defender aircraft;[3] this move led to the business being restructured as the Pilatus Britten-Norman company. Shortly thereafter, production activity on the Islander/Defender family was transferred to its Bembridge.[11][12] Under the new company's direction, new features were installed upon the Islander over the years, such as the fitting of silencers upon both the aircraft's engine and propellers to better facilitate operations in noise-sensitive environments.[13]


During 1982, development of an improved variant of the PC-7 was started, it emerged as the Pilatus PC-9 in 1984.[3] It retained the overall layout of its predecessor, but the aircraft had very little structural commonality with it. Amongst other improvements, the PC-9 features a larger cockpit with stepped ejection seats and also has a ventral airbrake. Certification was achieved in September 1985.

Development of what was to become the company's best selling type, the Pilatus PC-12, was started in 1987, a single-engined turboprop transport that could carry up to twelve passengers or freight.[3] In October 1989, Pilatus announced the development of the PC-12 at the annual convention of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).[14][15]: 80 


The prototype PC-12 was flown on 31 May 1991.[3] On 30 March 1994, the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation issued the type certificate for the PC-12;[16] The first PC-12 Eagle surveillance aircraft was built in 1995, further developments led to the PC-12 Spectre; amongst other customers, it was adopted by the United States Air Force as the U-28A. Since entering service, Pilatus developed a large number of improvements and options upon the original PC-12 model; changes include increases in the maximum takeoff weight, the use of increasingly powerful engines, the adoption of new avionics, noise-reduction measures, new propellers, speed and range increases, additional interiors and new inflight entertainment systems.[17][18][19][20]

During 1997, TSA Transairco SA of Geneva was acquired by Pilatus. In 1998, Pilatus Australia Pty Ltd was established, while Britten-Norman was sold.[citation needed]


To further its family of military training aircraft, the turboprop PC-21 was developed and first flown in 2002.[3] A key aim for the PC-21 was to allow jet aircraft pilots to perform the majority of their training using the type before converting to jet-powered types, allowing operators to make substantial savings. In order to achieve this aim, the new trainer was required to have an expanded performance envelope in terms of aerodynamics, cockpit equipment, flexibility, and ease of maintenance.[21][22][23] In May 2002, Pilatus announced that it aimed for the PC-21 to capture 50% of the global trainer aircraft market between 2005 and 2030.[24][25]

In December 2000, the owners Unaxis (previously called Oerlikon-Bührle) sold Pilatus to a consortium of Swiss investors. During July 2010, the company delivered its 1,000 PC-12.[3]


In 2013, Pilatus created a new overseas entity, Pilatus Aircraft Industry (China) Co., Ltd, to manufacture both the PC-6 and PC-12 aircraft in Chongqing, China; this company was ran as a joint partnership between Pilatus and Beijing Tian Xing Jian Yu Science Co., Ltd.[26] In 2014, the majority of PC-6s delivered that year were to Chinese customers.[27] By April 2016, around 20 PC-6s were in operation in the Chinese market; the type has often been used to replace the Antonov An-2, being reportedly cheaper to operate.[28]

The PC-24 was designed based on feedback from PC-12 customers, who desired increased range and speed, but wanted to retain the PC-12's ability to use very short runways.[29] The design program was first mentioned by Pilatus in its May 2011 annual report.[30] On 21 May 2013, the PC-24 was introduced to the public at the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) in Geneva. At the event, Pilatus chairman Oscar Schwenk claimed the PC-24 did not fit into any existing business jet categories, and stated that the aircraft was the only one that combined "...the versatility of a turboprop with the cabin size of a medium light jet, and the performance of a light jet".[31][32] The rollout of the first PC-24, HB-VXA, was on 1 August 2014, Switzerland's national day; the aircraft's first flight was on 11 May 2015.[33]

During 2018, Pilatus' general aviation division delivered 128 aircraft: 80 PC-12s, 27 PC-21s, 3 PC-6s and 18 PC-24s and its revenue was 1.1 billion Swiss francs (SFr.) ($1.0 billion) while order intake for the year was $980 million, boosting the company’s backlog to $2.07 billion.[1] That same year, the company announced the closure of the orderbook for the PC-6 during summer 2018; the last example of the type was completed during early 2019 while parts production is set to continue for at least 20 years.[34]

At the end of 2019, Pilatus recorded revenues of Swfr1.2 billion, which was principally generated via the delivery of 134 aircraft: 40 PC-24s, 83 PC-12NGs, and 11 PC-21s. This compared with revenues of Swfr1.1 billion in 2018 on deliveries of 128 aircraft: 18 PC-24s, 80 PC-12NGs, 27 PC-21s and three PC-6s.[35] As of May 2020,the company's backlog stood at $2.1 billion.[35]


Name Description
Pilatus SB-1 3-4.jpg Pilatus SB-1 1939
STOL experimental, project only[36]
Pilatus SB-2 HB-AEP.jpg Pilatus SB-2 1941
STOL transporter, only 1 aircraft
Pilatus SB-5 Side.jpg Pilatus SB-5 "Super-Pelican" 1944
STOL transporter, project only[36]
Pilatus P-1 Ansicht.jpeg Pilatus P-1 1941
Single-seat trainer, project only
Pilatus P2.JPG Pilatus P-2 1945
Pilatus P-3 A-829.jpg Pilatus P-3 1953
PilatusP4frontseite.JPG Pilatus P-4 1948
STOL transporter, 1 prototype only
Pilatus P-5.jpeg Pilatus P-5 1951
artillery observation aircraft, project only
Pilatus PC-6 Turbo-Porter (D-FIBE) arrives Bristol Airport, England 14May2019 arp.jpg Pilatus PC-6 1959
STOL transporter
PC-7 - RIAT 2013 (9518758134).jpg Pilatus PC-7 1966
Turboprop trainer
PC-8D seite.jpg Pilatus PC-8D 1967
STOL transporter, only 1 prototype
PC9.JPG Pilatus PC-9 1984
Turboprop trainer
PC-10 alle bug.jpg Pilatus PC-10 1970
Twin-engined transporter, project only
Pilatus B4-PC11 AF D-3993.jpg Pilatus B-4 1972
Sailplane given Pilatus project number PC-11
HB-FOG Seite.jpg Pilatus PC-12 1991
Single-engined transport/business turboprop
New Saudi PC-21.JPG Pilatus PC-21 2001
Turboprop trainer
PC 24 Roll-Out.jpg Pilatus PC-24 2014
Twin-engined transport/business jet


Pilatus Aircraft has its headquarters, along with a production plant, on the Buochs Airport in the Swiss canton of Nidwalden. The headquarters and plant are in the municipality of Stans.

The company's wartime founding called for a location far from Switzerland's borders and right up against a ridge of Mount Pilatus. Original plans actually called for the factory to be built inside the mountain.[37]

Besides its day to day role as an aircraft factory, the Stans plant is perhaps best known for its use as a location for the film Goldfinger, and particularly the exterior shots where James Bond crashes his DB5 and is captured.[38][39]

Besides its Stans plant, the Pilatus Group has operations in Adelaide, South Australia and in Broomfield, Colorado.[40]



  1. ^ a b c Huber, Mark (9 May 2019). "Pilatus 2018 Annual Revenues Top $1 Billion". AIN Online.
  2. ^ "Personnel Figures". Pilatus Aircraft. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x "Pilatus Aircraft Ltd - Chronicle" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 19, 2016.
  4. ^ Taylor 1965, pp. 126–127.
  5. ^ a b Leeker, Joe F. "Air America: Pilatus / Fairchild PC-6 Turbo Porters." Archived 2016-03-06 at the Wayback Machine University of Texas at Dallas, 24 August 2015.
  6. ^ Moll 1993, p. 64.
  7. ^ Fricker 1962, p. 102.
  8. ^ Air International September 1979, p. 112.
  9. ^ a b c "Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainer." Forecast International, September 1999.
  10. ^ Wastnage, Justin. "Pilatus ponders additions to civilian aircraft offering." Archived 16 June 2019 at the Wayback Machine Flight International, 26 February 2002.
  11. ^ Simpson 1991, p. 77.
  12. ^ Goold, Ian. "Britten-Norman Islander celebrates 40th anniversary." Archived 15 September 2017 at the Wayback Machine AIN Online, 16 October 2006.
  13. ^ "Pilatus Britten-Norman will adopt Islander silencer." Archived 7 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine Flight International, 7 January 1998.
  14. ^ "Booming Business." Flight International, 23 September 1989.
  15. ^ Moll, Nigel (November 1989). "A Swiss to Watch". Features. Flying. Vol. 116 no. 11. Diamandis Communications. pp. 80–84. ISSN 0015-4806. Retrieved 21 February 2016 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ "Pilatus PC-12 Certified in Switzerland". Reporting Points. Flying. Vol. 121 no. 7. Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. July 1994. p. 28. ISSN 0015-4806. Retrieved 21 February 2016 – via Google Books.
  17. ^ McClellan, J. Mac (10 August 2010). "Pilatus PC-12: The Value of Only One Engine". Flying.
  18. ^ Grady, Mary. "Pilatus Offers New Upgrades for It's PC-12 NG." Robb Report, 19 March 2014.
  19. ^ Marsh, Alton K. (16 November 2015). "Pilatus Boosts PC-12 NG Performance". AOPA. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  20. ^ Sarsfield, Kate (16 November 2015). "NBAA: Pilatus marks flight of second PC-24 and upgrades PC-12NG". Las Vegas: Flightglobal. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  21. ^ Hoyle, Craig. "Switzerland special: Pilatus the success story." Archived 2016-04-06 at the Wayback Machine Flight International, 17 March 2008.
  22. ^ "The NextGen Trainer." Archived 2008-06-13 at the Wayback Machine Pilatus Aircraft, Retrieved: 22 March 2016.
  23. ^ "PC-21 set to revolutionise training for air forces." Archived 2016-04-06 at the Wayback Machine Flight International, 22 July 2002.
  24. ^ "Swiss air force poised to acquire six PC-21s." Archived 2016-04-06 at the Wayback Machine Flight International, 13 September 2005.
  25. ^ Wastnage, Justin. "Pilatus aims for half of trainer sales with PC-21." Archived 2016-04-06 at the Wayback Machine Flight International, 7 May 2002.
  26. ^ Aviation Week & Space Technology: 60. 23 October 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ Trautvetter, Chad. "Pilatus Tops $1B in Revenues for Second Year in a Row." Archived 2015-08-07 at the Wayback Machine AIN Online, 9 April 2015.
  28. ^ Thurber, Matt. "Pilatus PC-6 Proves Popular in China." AIN Online, 13 April 2016.
  29. ^ Grady, Mary (21 May 2013). "Pilatus Introduces PC-24 TwinJet". AVweb. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  30. ^ Ian Sheppard and Mark Huber (8 December 2017). "Pilatus PC-24 Awarded EASA and FAA Certification". AIN Online.
  31. ^ Sarsfield, Kate (21 May 2013). "EBACE: Pilatus joins the Jet Set with PC-24". Flightglobal.
  32. ^ Whyte, Alasdair (22 May 2013). "The Pilatus PC-24 versus the Cessna Citation CJ4 and the Embraer Phenom 300". Corporate Jet Investor. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
  33. ^ Trautvetter, Chad (11 May 2015). "Pilatus Jets into the Future with PC-24 First Flight". Aviation International News. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  34. ^ William Garvey (25 April 2018). "End Of The Line For Pilatus PC-6 Porter". Aviation Week & Space Technology. Archived from the original on 2 May 2018. Retrieved 2 May 2018.
  35. ^ a b Sarsfield, Kate (15 May 2020). "Pilatus predicts a bumpy 2020 but sees 'clean landing' ahead". Flight Global.
  36. ^ a b Pilatus SB-2 Pelican: Das Schweizer Bergflugzeug 1938–1949. Studienbüro für Spezialflugzeuge, Kuno Gross, ISBN 978-3-7494-3640-8.
  37. ^ Wallace, Lane. "Pilatus in a Whole New Light." Flying Magazine , 9 October 2004. Retrieved: 14 September 2013.
  38. ^ "About Us". Pilatus Group. Retrieved 19 January 2013.
  39. ^ "Location Guide - Goldfinger". mi6-hq.com. Retrieved 19 January 2013.[dead link]
  40. ^ https://www.pilatus-aircraft.com/en/pilatus/pilatus-group The Pilatus Group: Associated Companies


  • Fricker, John. "Pilot Report: Pilatus". Flying Magazine, Vol. 70, No. 4. April 1962. ISSN 0015-4806. pp. 38, 100–103.
  • Moll, Nigel. "Ugly is Only Skin-Deep." Flying Magazine, Vol. 120, No. 2. February 1993. ISSN 0015-4806. pp. 62–68.
  • Simpson, R.W. Airlife's General Aviation. London: Airlife Publishing, 1991, p. 190. ISBN 1-85310-194-X.
  • "The Svelte Switzer ... Pilatus' Turbo Trainer". Air International, Vol. 16, No. 3, September 1979, pp. 111–118.
  • Taylor, Michael J. H. Brassey's World Aircraft & Systems Directory 1999/2000 Edition. London: Brassey's, 1999. ISBN 1-85753-245-7.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 46°58′33″N 8°22′53″E / 46.97583°N 8.38139°E / 46.97583; 8.38139