After 60 years, Pilatus will cease production of the PC-6 Porter in 2019.
While not valued for its looks or speed – the 550-hp turboprop maxes out around 125 knots – the unique Porter is unbeatable in its niche. It is known for its terrific short and unimproved field performance, rugged utility, reliability and versatility in all weather and terrain conditions. It has a useful load that’s significantly higher than its basic empty weight, carrying around 3,300 pounds with a 2,800-pound airframe, and at sea-level conditions it will lift over a tonne after a ground run of less than 200 metres.
The Porter has seen one of the longest continuous production runs of any aeroplane model since it first rolled off the line in Switzerland in 1959. But, as the certification of the PC-24 Super Versatile Jet inches closer, Pilatus has announced it is discontinuing the aeroplane that helped grow the company decades ago.
While the production line has been running for nearly six decades, the number of planes produced is nowhere near that of the mass-produced Cessna 172 and 182, which have been produced in the tens of thousands. The Swiss manufacturer has delivered just over 500 Porters and approximately another 100 were produced in the United States under licence.
In South Africa, the PC-6 is operated by the police air wing, and was in service in the South African Air Force. A civilian aircraft has also recently been used in anti-poaching operations.
Although Pilatus managed to sell about 10 PC-6s a year in recent years, sales are dropping. “I am proud that the PC-6 has been featured in the Pilatus product portfolio. This aircraft has earned us fame and recognition worldwide,” said Pilatus chairman Oscar J. Schwenk. “But the time has now come to take a dispassionate look at the facts and admit that every product has a life cycle which must come to an end sooner or later. That moment has come for the PC-6. With an eye on the future, however, we now look forward to the imminent market launch of the PC-24 Super Versatile Jet, which embodies, and carries forward, all the original values of the PC-6.”
There won’t be any layoffs of employees as a result of the production termination. Instead, workers from the PC-6 product line will transfer to the PC-24.
Pilatus says operators needing the PC-6’s short-field performance and cargo-hauling capability can still place new orders until mid-2018, and the company will support the aircraft with spare parts for at least 20 more years.