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Business Aviation, Commercial Airliners, General Aviation

SUMMARY: Pilatus Aircraft has rolled out its first business jet, the PC-24 is being marketed as the “Super Versatile Jet” ? AND “it’s the only aircraft combining the versatility of the turboprop with the size of a medium size jet and the performance of a light jet” ? AND “It’s a plane that simply does not fit into any of the existing business jet categories” ? to good to be true ? or marketing gone wild ? Is there really a market for operating into remote, short and dangerous unprepared airstrips with a $8.9 million jet with high net worth VIP’s on board or a mere 2,500 lbs of cargo on board ? come on, really ? Simply Pilatus is exaggerating and misleading customers, it has a jet with a big cabin equal to biz jets of $15+ million (501 ft3), and that is its big and unique value proposition. Promises of great short field performance is highly questionable as power to weight ratio (0.39) is at par with existing aircraft and the wings and flaps are too close to the ground to be safe for any unprepared airfield operations. Contrary to Pilatus claims the PC-24 is NOT designed for short unprepared airfields, nothing on its design is unique in that perspective, but it will be very attractive to buyers for its large cabin size at a relative low price. If you really need to fly into remote,unprepared and short airfields, buy their PC-6 or PC-12 but not the PC-24, sorry but this is just a case of marketing myopia, and marketing gone wild ! This is not a PC-6 or PC-12 where you can almost go anywhere, this is a high value business jet for high net worth clients, who are not going to risk their lives going into short rough airfield in remote regions, that is just silly marketing, that will backfire, its like marketing an expensive limousine to drive VIP’s into remote rough terrain regions or to load your expensive limousine with freight ? dum idea no ?

The August 1, 2014 roll out of the new $US 8.9 (2017 price) or around $US 8.4m (2014) Pilatus PC-24 business jet was very impressive, and a major milestone for Pilatus Aircraft as it diversifies its product range beyond its military PC-7 and PC-21 turboprop trainer sales and build on its 1,200+ delivered PC-12 single engine turboprop sales success. The company has come a long way and I have great respect for its history and especially its recent success in both the military and civilian markets under its Chairman Oscar J. Schwenk.

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PC-24-9[2] Pilatus PC-24 roll-out 2014 1

 

The first business jet for Pilatus Aircraft, the $US 8.9 million (2017 $) all metal 7-10 passenger PC-24 “Super Versatile Jet” was rolled out on August 1st, 2014 in Stan, Switzerland, the manufacturer hopes to be able to take on the likes of Textron (CJ4), Bombardier (Learjet 70/75) and Embraer (Phenom 300) in the Light business jet segment. Certification is in 2017 though as we know, best to think about 2018. Already 85 units are sold, so next delivery slots not till 2020. The aircraft is slower than the 3 main competitors, but offers a large 501 ft3 cabin the size of many $15m to $18m business jets and claims takeoff distance of only 2,690 feet (paved, ISA, SL, no wind), that is better than existing aircraft, but I am not convinced, thrust to weight is on par with the 3 competitors, landing distance is greater and maximum speed slower but it can takeoff in a shorter distance ?

PC-24-landingpc-24-low wing

Pilatus claims you can access 100% more airports with its PC-24 than with the Embraer Phenom 300 (aka “closest competitor”) so instead of being able to operate in and out of 10,650 airports around the world you can now access at 21,000+ airports with the PC-24 where the runway is at least 2,690 feet long, REALLY ? what about the elevation of the field ? slope ? obstacles ? Anyway who wants to land their $8.9m business jet on a short and rough unprepared airstrip ? is there a market for that ?

Look how low the belly of the aircraft sits to the ground in the above photos, about the height of the main landing wheel, the wing is very low to the ground as well, lower those big flaps and you will be real close to the ground (Note: the aircraft has no fuel or passengers when the photo was taken which would lower the belly even closer to the ground), this aircraft will take a beating on a rough runway, gravel will damage the under belly, wings and extended flaps, this aircraft was NOT designed for unprepared airstrips-sorry. I see nothing about this aircraft that says it was designed for rough fields, and Pilatus does not explain or give any description of what designs features on the aircraft are for rough field operations.

pilatus-pc-24-landing-gravel

This is a beautiful light business jet with a cabin of a midsize business jet, that is it, there is nothing about the design to say it was built for rough short airstrips, just a marketing gimmick to hype up the aircraft, but this is NO PC6 or PC-12 when it comes to short unimproved airstrips ! 

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Having been in this industry for 27+ years, I do have experience in the executive business jet market, from selling new business jets for Cessna and Gulfstream to starting and running 2 of my own executive jet charter and management companies in Eastern Europe, and I don’t like the marketing and product positioning Pilatus is using to promote the new PC-24 which has already accumulated the 85 sales need to fill the first 3 years of production (2017-2020) at Farnborough last month.

Pilatus needs to understand it is not selling short rough field capabilities, it is selling VIP luxury business jets, it needs to market the big 501 ft3  cabin and 90 ft3 baggage compartment not landing in short, remote unprepared airstrips, it still thinks its a STOL aircraft, but it is not. People do not buy high end sports cars to go driving in rough terrain with loads of cargo, for that there is the all terrain 4 x 4 pick-up truck market, Pilatus has fallen in love with big cargo doors, short and rough airfields, BUT the PC-24 is NOT designed for it, contrary to their marketing claims, as you will find out in this article.

In short, focus on the midsize cabin equal to many $15m to $18m business jets, forget landing in remote short unprepared airfields, that was fine for the PC-6 and PC-12, but now you are selling a luxury business jet, a different market form the very successful PC-12. Maximum payload of the PC-24 is only 2,500 lbs. that very little cargo to carry in a $8.9 million aircraft, a Cessna Grand Caravan can carry 50% more cargo for 75% less purchase cost, so forget that segment.

The company asked its $4.6m PC-12 customers what would they like to see in a new Pilatus aircraft, the answer was off course faster and a bigger cabin, and orders came in from existing PC-12 customers like the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia for 3 PC-24’s to add to its 31 x PC-12’s, 31 x King Air B200’s, 2 x King Air B350’s and 2 x C208B Grand Caravans !

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PC-12zzPC-6

 

The current Pilatus line of civilian aircraft, the very successful PC-12 (1,200+ delivered) and the PC-6 Turbo Porter which is 55 years old today, having started with a 340hp piston engine and today is powered by the PT6A-27 with 680 shp, over 581 have been built, but last few years it has become a trickle of deliveries (3-4 per year). Both aircraft are to be built in Chongqing, China under a new joint venture, and Pilatus has committed to building 50 in the first phase. Both aircraft are built to handle short rugged airfields, this mentality has to go out the window for the PC-24, they need to understand you are selling a $8.9m VIP business jet, not a pick up truck but a sports car, its a different mind set, marketing myopia is steering them to market the PC-24 as a the “Super Versatile Jet” yet customers want  luxury, comfort, speed and range, if they want to operate into short rough fields there are plenty of old used business jets for under $600K today ! or Twin Otters.

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While it is not mentioned anywhere, my suspicion is that the to some degree the origins of the PC-24 have something to do with the failed Grob G180SPn jet, it was a 13,889 lbs. MTOW jet with Williams FJ44-3A engines, composite airframe and marketed as a jet replacement for the King Air 200, a very ‘versatile’ turboprop and the program was driven by Niall Oliver CEO of ExecuJet of South Africa and a big fan of building a jet to handle short unimproved runways.

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do328jetBAe 146vfw 614-2

Now these jets were designed for short unimproved fields, the Dornier Do-328Jet, BAe RJ100 (146-300) and the VFW 614 that never made it commercially, but each had its own unique features to be able to land on rough fields, high wing for the Do328Jet and RJ100 keeps wing and engines way above the ground, the RJ100 has no reverse but a big air brake at the back to slow the aircraft down and the VFW614 had the engines on a wing pylon, keeping them safe from FOD.

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But for such runways you ideally need 1. high wing aircraft (Do328Jet, ATR, DHC-6, DHC-8 to BAe 146) to minimize FOD (foreign object damage) like rocks, sand, etc. on airframe, wing and especially jet engines 2. you need a high thrust to weight ratio for a jet to get airborne quickly (0.40 of the Grob G180SPn) to accelerate to takeoff speed (V2), and then you have coefficients for adjusting takeoff distance/run depending on runway condition (ie. 1.47 for unpaved muddy runway, 1.05 for soft sandy runways) that will increase takeoff distance, in some cases substantially.

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sao tomedhc-6-ahondajet

You can’t land the PC-24 here (FPPR) Principe Airport (Sao Tome e Principe, Africa) ! though its 4,331 feet long and 519 feet above sea level, like many airports in the third world or other remote corners of the world, the surface conditions are dangerous, land here and you will risk damage to your expensive business jet, so why chance it ? you need a dedicated short and rough field aircraft like the DHC-6 Twin Otter for such airfields, only $1.6m used it can carry 4,000 lbs of payload (double the PC-24) and handle any runway surface, leave those missions to aircraft that were designed for short unprepared runways ! In the far right is the new $4.8m HA-420 HondaJet, the engine is on the wing, this will keep the engines away from FOD, but like the PC-24 its low wing will get banged up on any rough surface, the best configuration is a high wing aircraft, but there are no high wing business jet, the Dornier Do328Jet is the smallest available (can seat 12-32 passengers).

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Coming from my sales and business development background, I have seen many companies ‘over’ promise on their claims of what their aircraft can or will do, this claim of “super versatility” due to it having turboprop airfield performance that will allow it to access 100% more airports around the world than its nearest competitor, needs to be investigated and commented on, which I am sure Textron, Embraer and Bombardier would love to join in on, if they could. Pilatus has even come up with a new term for the aircraft SVJ (super versatile jet) though that is questionable as you will read further down in this article.

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grob-1

The Grob G180SPn business jet, before the company went bust in 2008 and following a fatal crash in 2006. The jet was also marketed as a versatile jet, able to land on unprepared airfields like the B200 King Air. The project probably gave some light to the PC-24 idea, who else wants to go into unprepared airstrips in remote locations made of grass, mud, gravel, sand, pot holes, etc. with a $8.9 million business jet that carries at best, 2,500 lbs of payload ? crazy idea, 

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Let’s introduce the PC-24, its an all metal aircraft seating 6 to 10 passengers or a maximum payload of 2,500 lbs. and was designed to operate from short unimproved runways with a balanced field length as short as 2,690 at its MTOW of 17,650 lbs at sea level and ISA conditions I assume. The aircraft is powered by two Williams FJ44-4A’s producing 3,400 lbs of thrust each for a thrust to weight ratio (very important for takeoff performance) of 0.39 and a maximum cruise of 425 kts and able to go up to FL450 and a range of 1,950nm with 4 passengers.

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cj4xPhenomlear70

The 3 big competitors for the PC-24, The Textron Aviation CJ4, Embraer’s Phenom 300 and Bombardier’s Learjet 70/75 line, last year the 3 delivered only 214 of these 3 models, this year, only 99 were delivered in the first half, the Very Light, Light and Super Light segments have not recovered since the economic crisis of 2008, while the Super Large and Long Range segments are doing brisk business. Pilatus has all but had a monopoly in the PC-12 market, can it compete head to head with the big boys ? It needs to understand what it is selling, right now trying to be everything to all people, you cannot be a wonderful luxury car and a great go anywhere pick-up truck, need to focus on what buyers are looking for, get that wrong and you are another Syberjet SJ30 a 6-8 seat FJ44 powered jet with 2,598nm range that first flew in 1991 as the Swearingen Jet, 23 years later after numerous owners, only 8 built and sadly still trying to find its place in the market at $7.3m.

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I have looked at the PC-24 closely and compared it to the currently produced nearest competitors in the ‘Light’ category, the 1. $9.3 million Textron/Cessna CJ4, 2. the $8.9 million Embraer Phenom 300 and 3. the $US 11.3 million Bombardier Learjet 70, and my analysis now begins of the aircraft, market and the PC-24 sales potential.

The PC-24 aircraft does have a large cabin of 501 ft3 (14.2 m3) which is puts it into the low end of the mid-size category for cabin size comparable to the $15.7m G150 (465 ft3) and the $18.2m CE-680 Sovereign (620 ft3), and this will be a very strong selling point for sure, and surely something that Textron, Embraer and Bombardier have to take look at for future designs as recent survey of new business jet buyers rated the top 5 reasons in order of importance as follows :

1. Range     2. Cabin Size     3. Performance    4. Newer Technology     5. Company Brand

 1. Range:

In the PC-24’s Light Category, its 1,950nm range with 4 passengers is pretty much equal to the competition (CJ4=1,920nm, Phenom 300=1,903nm, Lear 70=1,903nm).

This range issue is is more applicable in the $49+ million segments of Super Large and Long Range sCategory business jets – Global 5000, Falcon 900EX Easy, Gulfstream 450 and up.

2. Cabin Size :

Here the PC-24 is on to something with 501 ft3 of cabin volume, its competitors have much smaller cabins (CJ4=311 ft3, Phenom 300=325 ft3, Lear 70=369 ft3).

3. Performance :

Here the PC-24 I believe is NOT as good as it claims.

Max. speed of 425kts is the slowest of the 4 aircraft (CJ4=442kts, Phenom 300=453kts, Lear 70=465kts).

The takeoff numbers currently quoted by the PC-24 in my opinion are wrong, something is not adding up, and no I am not an aerospace engineer, but I know my airplanes and I know something is not right with the claim of 2,690 feet balanced field length on a paved runway (MTOW, no wind, ISA, SL), while the competition is much higher (CRJ4=3,190 ft, Phenom 300=3,138 ft, Lear 70=4,230 ft).

YET, take landing distance (MLW, no wind, ISA, SL, paved) of the PC-24 and its 2,525 feet is the longest ! (CJ4=2,277 ft, Phenom 300=2,220 ft, Lear 70=2,335 ft), which raises a few questions I am sure, especially for engineers in regard to higher Vref speeds, etc.

Now, I know there are many variables that determine takeoff distance, height to reach, speed to reach (Vr, V2), F = M x A or A = F/M, weight, wind, slope, surface, elevation, temp, flaps, etc. But to simplify things, let’s look at thrust to weight (MTOW) ratios, the PC-24 is 0.39 basically the same as the competitors (CJ4=0.42, Phenom 300=0.37, Lear 70=0.36), so how does the PC-24 get off the ground in 448 feet (-16.6%) less than the Phenom 300 ? (which by the way the Pilatus marketing people use as the “nearest competitor” for comparisons), when they are all low wing aircraft with basically same thrust/weight ratios ?

The Williams FJ44-4A with 3,434 pounds of thrust each, do have a 5% extra power with a thrust reserve feature and will utilize the Williams Exact passive thrust vectoring nozzle technology which provides 3 degrees of ‘vectored’ thrust during high powered operations like a takeoff, again nice, let’s see how it works,

No where does Pilatus talk about this, yet you would think they would discuss how they get such good airfield performance. Now if you look at the photo of the PC-24 you see that the belly of the aircraft sits very close to the ground, no more than the height of the main wheel, and this is with no fuel or passengers in the aircraft add that to the aircraft and the aircraft will sit even lower to the ground ! this is not in my opinion an aircraft designed for short unimproved runways, you can see that the belly and low wing will take a beating from any rough field landing.

Now when full flap down is exposed you will have lots of FOD to the flaps on a gravel or sand runway, not sure, but to me this aircraft was NOT designed for short unimproved runways, the wing is very low, in fact between hip and knee which is too low to the ground, again look at the photos attached.

So the PC-24 flies slower than the other 3 competitors, it needs more runways than the other 3 competitors BUT it can takeoff with 16.6% less runway than the Phenom 300 the best of the 3 in balanced field length ? something is not right, and time will tell, but you know in this business you need to use your head and not get caught up in all that hype, I remember the Eclipse 500 at $850,000 it was a joke and it went up and up in price, and eventually collapsed in November, 2008.

The whole thing ‘smelled’ from the beginning, but everyone got caught up in the VLJ (very light jet) frenzy, and talk of thousands of small jets flying all over the country, while CEO Vern Raburn got all kinds of awards for being an aviation pioneer, yet to those of us who were well planted to the ground we knew it was going no where. The secret weapon was friction stir welding and building at least 1,000 Eclipse’s a year, like a car factory was pipe dream, and many investors and buyers got screwed. Today where are all the VLJ’s ? gone, D-Jet ? Adam A700 ? Piper’s Altaire ? millions of dollars lost, only the Cirrus SF-50 Vision will make it, hopefully next year, thanks to China’s CAIGA’s (China Aviation Industry General Aircraft) acquisition of Cirrus Aircraft in April, 2012.

The company likes to brag about all the extra runways that are now open to the PC-24 versus airports accessible with “closest competitor” (ie. Phenom 300 T.O. runway required is 3,138 feet), and the numbers are amazing, you wonder who made this up ?

North America: 4,397 airports are available to PC-24 and the Phenom 300, BUT increased to 8,383 or 91% more airports for the PC-24 ? I wonder if they assumed elevation, average temperatures, etc. as the aircraft cannot fly out of a 2,690 foot long runway at 4,000 feet above seal level on a ISA+15 day, I think they just added ALL airports with runways below the Phenom’s 3,138 feet takeoff distance, anyway here are the actual claims being made by Pilatus (versus its nearest competitor-Phenom 100) :

South America: 1,501 airports BUT with PC-24  it is 3,282 airport, a 119% improvement in airport access !

Europe: 1,635 airports BUT with PC-24 it is 2,928 airports, a 79% improvement in airport access !

Africa: 815 airports BUT with PC-24 it is 2,477 airports, a 204% improvement in airport access !

Asia: 1,627 airports BUT with PC-24 it is 2,134 airports, a 28% improvement in airport access !

Oceania: 625 airports BUT with PC-24 it is 1,784 airports, a 185% improvement in airport access !

Well if you believe Pilatus, the PC-24 will revolutionize air travel, by opening up “an incredible level of mobility”, but there is nothing revolutionary about the aircraft in terms of performance, we will see when it flies how those takeoff numbers increase, but again it has a great big cabin for the price, but that comes with a price, it is performance, so I have to be very negative on their claims for now.

I do not think too many customers will want to take their $8.9m PC-24 into short unimproved airports, that is fine with a DHC-6 or C208B or even a good used B200 King Air, but really ? risk damaging it in the middle of nowhere ? it only has a payload of 2,500 lbs, so it would have to be a real valuable cargo to make it worthwhile like gold or blood diamonds, so I do not see it or get it. Take an expensive jet into a remote strip that can damage your aircraft, and for what 2,500 lbs of cargo ? if the landing does not damage the aircraft the FOD may and then there is the forklift between the engine and the wing, it’s awfully tight, risking damage, there really is very little room between the wing and engine to use a forklift.

IF there was a market for such an aircraft, the Cessna Citation line would have seen it a long time ago. I think the PC-24 is a beautiful business jet, and it will compete in a very competitive segment, which has been hurting for several years from slow sales. In 2013, only 214 jets (roughly $1.3 billion in sales) were delivered in this ‘Light’ segment :

Bombardier: (18 x Lear 70/75’s, 10 x Lear 60’s, 1 x Lear) = 29

Textron: (20 x CE510 Mustang’s, 12 x CE525 M2’s, 15 x CE-525A CJ2+’s, 15 x CE525B CJ3’s, 33 x CE525C CJ4’s) = 95

Embraer: (30 x Phenom 100’s, 60 x Phenom 300’s) = 90

The light jet  market is not good, as of 1st half this year, only 99 aircraft were delivered in this segment (Bombardier x 8, Textron x 52, Embraer x 39) so even below 2013 deliveries at this point and for a company like Pilatus that delivered 394 x PC-12 in 5 years (2009-2013), or roughly 79 a year on average, its a small segment they are entering, the only ‘competitive advantage’ I see is the cabin volume, that will be a big selling feature, the perceived benefit is comfort, though with 1,950nm range, you won’t be going longer than 4:15 in the aircraft anyway.

That is where marketing should be going, marketing a “Light” jet as a “Midsize” aircraft for the price of the “Light” jet, it also an all internal and pressurized 90 ft3 baggage compartment which is larger than any in the “Light”segment and more in line again with the “Midsize” jets. Of the 85 orders received, 67 are from Private buyers (79%) who are obviously attracted by the cabin size, and as for airfield performance the possible 450 feet for private buyers is trivial, it’s a good selling point for the Royal Flying Service of Australia, but it has been over done by marketing at Pilatus. So more on the big cabin and baggage compartment and less on short unimproved airfield performance which may or may not be real anyway.

I think, Pilatus has marketing myopia, they love their PC-12, off course, 1,200 units it has done extremely well, but a cargo door on a business jet that costs double that of a used B737 Freighter ? or 3 times that of a good ATR-42 Freighter ? The cargo door was great on a PC-12, but the PC-24 has rear mounted engines, the space between the engine and the wing trailing edge is small, try a forklift in between that space and you risk damage. The trailing edge of the flaps is too close to the ground, when extended it can be damaged by any forklift, in short forget the cargo business, today you can buy a good old Learjet with a big door for $600K today for that or get a Twin Otter, if you want an all terrain 4 x 4 truck buy one, if you buy a luxury limo buy one, but you should not use it for freight, right ?

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Pilatus PC-24 & forklift front viewPilatus PC-24 & forklift side view (1)

As you can see from my realistic illustration of the PC-24, the space between wing and engines is very tight for any forklift, this is no PC-12 where there is a T-tail and and engine in front, loading the PC-24 with a forklift will be a whole lot more complicated than with the PC-12, again this is a small business jet and Pilatus is trying make it appealing in so many ways, but cargo is not it, and looking at the above, how will a stretcher go in ? nice to have a large door, but really the access is very limited from the back and I frankly do not see it very “versatile”. The Royal Flying Service of Australia has ordered 3 PC24’s, the large cargo door will help with loading/unloading, but its not a PC-12 when it comes to that.

pc-12 air ambulance

The PC-12 is perfect for loading and unloading cargo and stretchers, no obstruction means easy access with forklift or personnel, now look at the top side diagram of the PC-24 and you will see that it is very tight around that door between the trailing edge of the wing and the engine just enough space to access the 51″ x 49″ (1.3m x 1.25m) cargo door.

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4. Newer Technology :

The PC-12 is all metal, nothing new there, outside of the very interesting thrust vectoring, which is unique and could provide some interesting development for future aircraft designs, there is nothing really new there, the Honeywell Primus Apex is a very good avionics suite, already used by other OEM’s. Again, the aircraft is a good aircraft with a big much bigger cabin than any other aircraft in the 8-10 ton MTOW category, and that is what will drive its sales success, the PC-24 is a business jet and not a utility aircraft.

I have seen this “marketing myopia” mistake before, on smaller aircraft, like the Quest Kodiak which is a single engine turboprop utility aircraft, able to go into short unimproved strips, sales were very slow marketing it as a STOL bush plane, company now makes VIP interior versions and surveillance versions and competes well very well today with the Cessna CE208A Caravan, has now delivered over 100+ now and doing well. The same applied to Found Aircraft in Canada, it revived the FBA-2c1 single piston engine 5 seat bush plane with conventional gear (tail dragger) and sales were poor, then it got away from the ‘bush’ marketing and came out with the Expedition tricycle gear FBA-3C1 with 315hp, which was more appealing to customers as few pilots today want a tail dragger, few in fact know how to fly a tail dragger, anyway it changed its focus from bush to private owners, sales picked up, but it was too late, company went into bankruptcy this past January.

My point is that too many companies get “Marketing Myopia” which is a short sighted view and too inward looking view of the market as seen from within an organization, too focused on what it sees and thinks of the market instead of finding out and defining what customer needs and wants are, so you get a product positioning strategy that is not in tune with the real outside world, a false view of the market and obscures the changes needed to align the organization to what is really happening in its market and how it affects its product offering.

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Quest kodiakfoundfound-2

Marketing myopia within an organization causes a poor product positioning strategy. The $1.96m Quest Kodiak turboprop (yellow aircraft in above photo) was originally conceived to be a “better” (faster, more payload, improved airfield performance, turbine power) Cessna 206 for missionary work throughout the world by various charity/christian organizations, in short a ‘bush’ plane to get in and out of remote unimproved airstrips with people and supplies/cargo. Sales were weak, now it is offered to private buyers with 3 screen Gramin G1000 avionics, leather seats, air conditioning, to VIP club seating, as it realized there is more to the aircraft than just a ‘bush’ plane. The company now offers a basic Tundra interior, to mid level Timberline carpet interior, soundproofing to the top of the line Summit interior with VIP club seating, sales are good, 28 deliveries in 2013 (102 delivered since starting production) compared to 42 in the previous 3 years, while its ‘Claw’ surveillance aircraft has much promise as well.

The Found Aircraft FBA 2c1 (orange in the above photo) was put back into production in 1997 30 years after the company seized doing business, a good ‘bush’ plane in the 1960’s the market for ‘bush’ planes is disappearing as the bush flying business is slowly fading away, so sales were not good, until they woke up and realized there is a bigger market out there from private buyers and they revamped the aircraft into a tricycle gear aircraft with more power and appeal, the FBA-2C3 E350 (red in above photo), unfortunately too late to save the company, went bust in January, 2014. Both companies are an example of ‘Marketing Myopia’ believing the organization knows best and ignoring changes in the market and not listening to customer/prospects wants and needs.

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Today, this is the case with Bombardier and its CSeries, they fell in love with their market studies of 10 years ago, designed a product for that 100-149 seat market but became blind to the changes in the market and underestimated how competitors would react to market and new engine technology changes, and now the same engine that revolutionized the CSeries PW 1500G is on the Embraer E2’s and Airbus A319’s/320’s, competitive advantage check mated ? no but will be tough to compete with an all new aircraft program that costs $4.4 billion when the others are just re-engining and ‘tweeking’ their airframes to get the same economics, at development costs that are 75% less.

5. Company Brand :

Pilatus has built up a good following, its recognizable brand, well known for building good products and great support, and it has a dealership and service network already established, its good to go and the 85 orders at Farnborough shows it will do well as a business jet and air ambulance but not as a freighter or rugged “Super Versatile Jet”. The aircraft should do well if marketed and sold properly, Pilatus has to get out of the PC-6 STOL and PC-12 mentality of operating into unimproved airfields and realize you are now in the executive business jet market, its about benefits for price, the utility the aircraft offers, they have a great chance to make it work, but only if they think ‘luxury’ not turboprop ‘versatility’.

The business market is doing extremely well at the upper end, the $49m to $61m Global Express 5000/6000 and the $59m to $65m G-550/650 line with Dassault slowly catching up with their $53m 7X and the new 8X coming soon. On the low end, the news is not so good still, sales have not rebounded, and I have shown above how the Light category is tough, but that applies to the Very Light and Midsize as well.

The good news is that new models are coming, next year the $4.8m Honda HA-420 HondaJet will be certified, the $2.9m Eclipse 550 is now selling under Sikorsky/UTC and the $2.0m Cirrus ST-50 Vision single engine jet is on course for 2016 certification, Embraer is coming with Legacy 500/450, Textron with Latitude and Longitude in the next 3 years, there is a lot of development in this business and we are waiting on the over due Learjet 85, which is struggling as Bombardier focuses on the ultra long range, large cabin Global 7000 and 8000 which are due in 2016 and 2017. Bombardier need to fill the gap between the $13.9m Learjet 75 and the $21m Challenger 350, or does it ? the priority must be the 7000/8000 and the struggling CSeries.

Meanwhile we have said good bye to many older models for various reasons in the past year, CJ1, Premier 1A, Hawker 400XP, CJ2, Learjet 40/45, Excel, Encore, Hawker 800/850XP/900XP, Learjet 60, G200, and Hawker 4000. The introduction of the PC-24 and and a new player in the market is good, it keeps it competitive and interesting, and just need to move the light to midsize segment in sales and the industry would be in very good shape.

The global business aircraft market is huge, now around 30,000 jets and turboprops globally (18,000 jets and 12, 000 turboprops), with 65% of global jets and 60% of turboprops in North America, the local market is huge, with average age of jets now approaching 18 years old and 24 years old for turboprops. The on demand market air travel market today has many options, from air taxis, branded charters, jet card programs, fractional ownership to full aircraft ownership, so there are many ways to get customers to business jets without buying an aircraft outright.

With 1,100 charter operators globally of all sizes, the industry is in need of consolidation, only 80+ operators operate 10 or more aircraft and these larger operators are +40% of all charter aircraft in operation. The time is now to become more sales/marketing oriented, to drive new business, the clients are out there but you need to find them, before they find someone else. As we saw above, company brand is not high on the list, not like many years ago when Cessna could take a guy from a C-172 to a Citation Ultra, now they have choices, and many do not know the industry they are new, so its up to marketing to work them, educate them and offer what they need/want.

Pilatus has 10 Reasons why you should own a PC-24, I think 3 of the reasons are legitimate and real reasons the other 7 are made up reasons that few would swallow and are not real reasons to buy the aircraft, so only 3 out of 10 reasons why you should buy the PC-24 :

1. No other business jet can operate from runways as short as 2,690 feet. X we shall see what the performance is like once it flies, expect changes.

2. No other business jet has been designed to operate from paved and unpaved surfaces and give access to 21,000 airports. X this aircraft is designed like any other biz jet.

3. No other business jet offers this much cabin space at this price. YES 500 ft3 cabin is a lot of comfort for $8.9 million, its best selling point/value proposition.

4. No other business jet features a more capable standard cockpit environment at this price level. X come on, all new jets have wonderful systems today.

5. No other business jet includes a generous cargo door that makes loading quick and easy. YES the big door is great for gold clubs and lots of luggage.

6. No other business jet features a comparable all internal pressurized and in flight accessible baggage compartment. YES great idea.

7. No other business jet gives you more operational flexibility and mobility. X we shall see, but don’t count on it being a “game changer”, reality will settle in.

8. No other business jet is made in Switzerland. X really ? does the market care if its US, French or Canadian built ? 

9. No other business jet is a Super Versatile Jet. X just marketing gone wild,  a VIP business jet is just that, its not a pick-up truck to throw in cargo and then later carry high net worth executives, it is too expensive to use for cargo, like using a new limousine to carry oil drums ! just a silly marketing gimmick that has little if any appeal.

10. No other business jet lets you fly Crystal Class. X ? made up marketing gimmick. 

Best wishes to Pilatus, you have a wonderful aircraft with a big cabin, that is your competitive advantage that will sell, not going into remote gravel runways in the middle of nowhere, midsize cabin for the price of a light jet ! that is your value proposition, the rest is marketing talking nonsense.

These are my opinions based on years in this industry, I am not always right, but I have a good sense of what will work and what will not, seen and heard it all, thank you for reading my blog, good comments always welcome !

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About Aviation Doctor - Helping aviation companies to transform the present into a more profitable tomorrow

I am a Canadian and EU national with an MBA and 33+ years experience in aviation business development with 20 years overseas and work in 25+ countries. A former investment/merchant banker (mergers and acquisitions to corporate turnarounds). airline and OEM senior executive and past owner of 6 successful aviation companies in 3 countries (executive jet charter/management companies, aircraft sales, aircraft broker, airline/aerospace consulting to aircraft insurance). I have a very diverse aviation background with 75+ aviation companies (45+ airlines of all sizes, OEM's, airports, lessors, MRO to service providers) as consultant, executive management, business analyst and business development adviser. Excellent success track record in International Business Development. Most work with airlines is with new start-ups and restructuring of troubled carriers. I sold new business jets, turboprops and helicopters for Cessna, Raytheon, Gulfstream to Eurocopter as an ASR as well as undertaking sales and marketing of commercial aircraft for Boeing, de Havilland, Dornier, Saab and Beechcraft. Brokered everything from LET-410's to B747's and from piston PA31 to G550 business jets. I look beyond the headlines of the aviation news and analyze what the meaning and consequences of the new information really means. There is a story behind each headline that few go beyond. Picked the name Aviation Doctor, as much of my work has been with troubled companies or those that want and need to grow profitably. I fix problems be in the business, and help with restructuring for a better tomorrow. You can reach me with comments or suggestions at: Tomas.Aviation@gmail.com and I comment a lot on Google+, my Facebook and LinkedIN.

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