This week, we’re comparing the costs of Pilatus’ single-engine PC-12NG and Beechcraft’s King Air 250. Both operate with similar performance specs, with ranges between 1,600 and 1,700 nautical miles and room for seven passengers.
For consistency’s sake, we’ll use 200,000 miles per year as the common denominator for our comparison. The PC-12NG cruises at around 261 knots, or 301 miles per hour, which means you’re flying the PC-12NG 665 hours in a year. To fly 200,000 miles in a King Air 250, cruising at 274 knots, or 316 miles per hour, you’d be flying for 632 hours. Based on direct hourly costs and fixed annual costs, how much would it cost you to fly each of these turboprops for a year?
Direct Hourly Costs
Pilatus’ PC-12NG burns about 70.20 gallons of fuel per hour. At $5.00 a gallon, fuel is going to cost you $351.00 per hour. You can expect maintenance on a PC-12NG to cost around $309.55 per hour. $146.46 of that is for the airframe, and $163.09 is for the engine and APU. With that being said, you’ll spend $660.55 on direct costs every hour. At 665 hours, or 200,000 miles, that’s a total of $439,265.75 per year in direct costs.
Fixed Annual Costs
Crew expenses for the PC-12NG are, on average, $126,750.00 annually. To hangar a PC-12NG, you should expect to pay around $33,442.50 for the year. Insurance, including hull and legal liability, will cost you $21,766.88 for the year. Pilot training will cost you $21,840.00 for the year. All of those fixed costs combined give you a total of $203,799.38 annually. These numbers are based on flying with two pilots. If you choose to operate with a single pilot, you can obviously expect crew expenses and pilot training costs to drop, while insurance costs will likely increase.
At 428 hours, we’re looking at the following costs:
Total annual direct costs: $439,265.00
Total annual fixed costs: $203,799.38
Total annual cost: $643,064.38
King Air 250
Direct Hourly Costs
The King Air 250 burns approximately 134.55 gallons of fuel per hour. At $5.00 a gallon, that’s $672.75 per hour. Maintenance on the King Air 250 is $421.94 per hour, on average, including $170.54 for the airframe and $251.40 for the engine/APU. Combining those costs gives you a direct hourly cost of $1,094.69. At 632 hours (200,000 miles), you’re looking at spending $691,844.08 in direct costs each year.
Fixed Annual Costs
Crew expenses for the King Air 250 will typically be about $136,500.00 for the year. For your hangar, you’re looking at about $33,735.00 for the year. Insurance will cost you $17,858.10 for the year, and pilot training will cost you $24,960.00. Your total fixed costs for the year will be about $213,053.10 annually. Again, those numbers are based on using two pilots. The PC-12NG and King Air 250 are both certified for single-pilot operation, so those numbers would drop with just one pilot.
At 632 hours, that gives us:
Total annual direct costs: $691,844.08
Total annual fixed costs: $213,053.10
Total annual cost: $904,897.19
With an extra engine, the King Air 250 obviously operates at a significantly higher cost than the PC-12NG, most of which can be attributed to the King Air 250’s fuel burn, which is more than double that of the PC-12NG. Double the engines, double the fuel burn. Maintenance on a King Air 250 is also more than $100 more expensive every hour.
Although a single-engine might make some owners and operators a bit nervous, the PC-12NG’s Pratt & Whitney engine has a reputation for being one of the most reliable in the industry. The King Air 250 does outperform in the PC-12NG in both range and cruise speed, with a range that’s more than 100 nautical miles longer and a cruise speed that’s about 13 knots higher. The PC-12NG, on the other hand, performs better on the runway, requiring about 1,500 fewer feet on both takeoff and landing. The PC-12NG’s cabin is also three inches longer, an inch taller, and four inches wider.
A 2016 PC-12NG is listed in VREF with a retail value of just under 4.9 million, while VREF has the 2016 King Air 250’s retail value set at 5.75 million. You’re also going to spend an extra $250,000+ on operating costs each year in the King Air 250 over the Pilatus. Is it worth an extra $800,000+ at purchase and $250,000+ annually for an extra engine, an extra 100 miles on your range, and a faster plane?
If you have experience with either of these planes, let us know your opinion in the comments!