What would you do if we told you that you could be hitting the slopes within the next few hours? Or indulging your horological fantasies in the hallowed watchmaking grounds of La Chaux-de-Fonds? In fact, in less time it takes to get out of London in rush hour, you could be pretty much wherever you care to have an impromptu getaway.
We are, of course, talking about private aviation, but more specifically the benefits of a particular breed of aircraft. Not all aircraft are built equally and indeed some jets don’t really offer as much freedom as you might expect, needing larger, paved runways for any semblance of a safe landing.
Sure, the aircraft might, in theory, be able to land on a certain runway, but read the small print. It’s likely with minimum fuel and a single passenger, not great if you’re lugging your skis across country lines.
Not so the Pilatus PC-12 and PC-24. Let’s take a look in more detail.
The Pilatus PC-12 isn’t a jet, it’s a turboprop. That means the engines turn propellors, rather than fans inside their housing. The drag these propellors cause allow a turboprop to stop far quicker, making them suitable for shorter runways. Paired with Pilatus’ class-leading efficiency and cabin space, the PC-12 is arguably one of the finest short-haul private aircraft on the market.
Take-Off Distance: 758m | Max Cruise Speed: 290 KTAS | Max Range: 1,850nm | Max Passengers: 10 + 1 Pilot | Max Payload with fuel: 998 lb | Max Altitude: 30,000 ft | Landing Distance: 558m
On the other hand, you have the PC-24, the Super Versatile Jet. It’s named so for good reason, and it is one of – if not the – most multi-faceted aircraft around, combining the flexibility of a turboprop with the performance of a light jet and the cabin size of something a full class larger. It’s been engineered to work off-road, meaning unpaved runways aren’t a problem.
Take-Off Distance: 893m | Max Cruise Speed: 440 KTAS | Max Range: 2,000nm | Max Passengers: 11 + 1 Pilot | Max Payload with fuel: 715 lb | Max Altitude: 45,000 ft | Landing Distance: 724m
Six Travel Recommendations with Pilatus
So where can this pair of industry-leading aircraft take you, exactly? Well, to work that out, we’ve charted six different flights, three for each aircraft, all originating from London’s Biggin Hill Airport. So, whether you’re desperate for a few rounds of golf, a splash of coastal sunshine or some fresh mountain air, look no further.
Pilatus PC-12 Flights
La Chaux-de-Fonds – Flight Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
La Chaux-de-Fonds is home to some of the most renowned Swiss watchmakers to have ever mounted a balance wheel. It’s the Silicon Valley of haute horology. Ever wanted to explore the secrets of Omega’s Co-Axial escapement or what’s next in the pipeline for Breitling and Girard-Perregaux? All of these and more are sequestered among the idyllic hills of the area, just a five-minute drive from Les Eplatures airfield.
Dornoch – Flight Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Located just three minutes from Royal Dornoch Golf Club, this airfield will have you in the highlands and teeing off in round about two hours. The championship club’s two 18-hole courses are as demanding as they are beautiful, perfect for a full day of testing your handicap. If you prefer the Highland life sans sports, the airfield’s also close to the legendary Skibo Castle, for the ultimate fireside whisky tasting. Just be careful of sheep on the landing strip.
Ascona – Flight Time: 2 hours
Holding court over the breathtaking Lake Maggiore, Ascona’s a vastly underrated family destination for the sole reason that it usually takes a two-hour drive from Milan to get there. Not so with the PC-12, which will see you landing in Locarno, a much, much shorter drive. Both Eden Roc and Castello del Sole make for incredible stays, suffused with the kind of Mediterranean charm you don’t expect from Switzerland. It’s the perfect place for watersports and luxury in equal measure.
Pilatus PC-24 Flights
Epernay – Flight Time: 1 hour
Just an hour in the air and you can be sipping the finest sparkling vintages known to man at the Champagne Houses of Epernay. Granted, you’ll need to make a customs stop en route, but given the short flight time, that’s pretty acceptable. Explore the region’s vineyards, picking a few grapes yourself if it’s the right time of year, and settle in for an afternoon to sample the best the various maisons have to offer. And don’t worry about overindulging; you can always sleep on the flight back.
Gstaad – Flight Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
The mountains are calling, your skis are waiting and that black slope is looming large. While Gstaad isn’t the easiest place to get to normally other than via mountainside train, the PC-24 can land you right at Saanen Airfield, just nine minutes from the resort. Stay at the Gstaad Palace and experience the ultimate winter wonderland – and warm up with the best fondue in the Alps. Breathe in that fresh mountain air, a world away from the Big Smoke, and pretend lockdown never happened.
Lido Di Venezia – Flight Time: 2 hour 40 minutes
The beautiful city on the water beckons and with plenty of time until the next Venice Carnival, there’s ample time to pick out your masquerade mask and plan a visit. Lido Airfield lies just five minutes from the city, a short speedboat ride across the water. What better way to make a grand entrance than that? The flight time’s a little longer than most on this list, but at well under three hours, your fellow partygoers will still be stuck at the airport by the time you’ve finished your first glass of Italian red.
For more information on the capabilities of the Pilatus PC-12 and Pilatus PC-24 – and to make enquiries into purchasing your own – visit Oriens Aviation.