Montserrat’s new Air ambulance service – implications

Part 103 – 02/2020 (Contribution)

What does the provision of a St Barths-based Pilatus PC-12 suggest for our air access?

BRADES, Montserrat, February 7, 2020 –  A few days ago, many Montserratians spotted a strange new aircraft in our sky as it flew in to land at our Airport in Geralds. This was a Swiss-built Pilatus PC-12 air ambulance, which has a single, six-blade turboprop engine.  Montserrat has made an agreement for new air ambulance services, with an eye to accessing Guadeloupe (said to be 12 minutes) as well as Antigua (perhaps 5 minutes) in the first instance.

a Pilatus PC-12 on its way to land (Cr. St Barths Executivedot.com

However, the Pilatus is quite fast, can seat up to ten passengers, can fly with a single pilot and has a long-range. Indeed, the air ambulance service has posted online a map of its ability to reach the eastern seaboard of the USA in five to six hours from its St Barths Base.

That’s because the Pilatus 12 family of aircraft is capable of up to 330 miles per hour cruising speed, with a ceiling of 30,000 ft. Payload is 2,236 pounds, just under one standard ton.  Its range with six passengers (“executive” configuration) is up to 1,800+ miles.  It can seat up to ten passengers (plus one pilot), but six is preferred (hence, “executive”). The aircraft which came here was set up for four passengers and a patient. A reported current price is US$ 3.3 million.

What about the single-engine? According to St Barths Exec:

Pilatus PC-12 theoretical range

“Multi-engine aircraft have no advantage over single-engine turboprops when it comes to safety. . . The argument that single-engine aircraft are less safe than multis is based on the presumption of engine failure. However, modern turbine engines are so reliable they are rarely the primary cause of an accident or incident. This never happened for the PC12 world fleet (1800 aircrafts) after almost seven million flight hours.”

So, perhaps, we need to re-think our assumptions on the safety of small aircraft that have modern turboprop engines, sophisticated navigation equipment, autopilot, and computerised controls.

Let’s compare the famous Twin Otter, in its modern form:

The DeHavilland 6-400 Twin Otter Medium Turboprop is manufactured by Viking Air since 2010. The cabin measures 18.5 feet long by 5.3 feet wide by 4.8 feet tall giving it a total cabin volume of 475.9 cubic feet making it comfortable for up to 19 passengers. The baggage compartment can hold up to 17.6 bags assuming your average piece of luggage is less than 5 cubic feet. The DE Havilland 6-400 Twin Otter has a maximum range (not including headwinds, high altitude, hot temperatures, or higher capacity) of 811 miles and a maximum speed of 181 mph . . . . Service ceiling 25,000 feet.”  [Source: prijet dot com]

Also, a current version Twin Otter (19 passengers twin turboprop, 25,000 ft ceiling, cruising air speed 170 – 180 mph, range up to 1,000 mi) is on offer for US$ 6.4 millions,[1] and other sources suggest that old models may possibly go for US$ 1 – 2 millions. For comparison, the Britten Norman Islander is usually piston-engined but a turboprop version is available. As a piston-engined aircraft cruising speed is up to165 mph, ceiling is 13,600 – 19,700 ft and range is up to about 620 miles. Currently, a Turbo version is on sale for US$ 1.3 millions, and piston-engined versions from US$ 195,000 (it has 15,000+ flying hours).[2] Of course, a key advantage is that the Islander requires just one pilot, the Twin Otter (as we will remember) normally flies with two.


[1]           See: https://www.globalair.com/aircraft-for-sale/Twin-Otter-DHC-6-400

[2]           See https://www.controller.com/listings/aircraft/for-sale/list/manufacturer/britten-norman

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Part 103 – 02/2020 (Contribution)

What does the provision of a St Barths-based Pilatus PC-12 suggest for our air access?

BRADES, Montserrat, February 7, 2020 –  A few days ago, many Montserratians spotted a strange new aircraft in our sky as it flew in to land at our Airport in Geralds. This was a Swiss-built Pilatus PC-12 air ambulance, which has a single, six-blade turboprop engine.  Montserrat has made an agreement for new air ambulance services, with an eye to accessing Guadeloupe (said to be 12 minutes) as well as Antigua (perhaps 5 minutes) in the first instance.

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a Pilatus PC-12 on its way to land (Cr. St Barths Executivedot.com

However, the Pilatus is quite fast, can seat up to ten passengers, can fly with a single pilot and has a long-range. Indeed, the air ambulance service has posted online a map of its ability to reach the eastern seaboard of the USA in five to six hours from its St Barths Base.

That’s because the Pilatus 12 family of aircraft is capable of up to 330 miles per hour cruising speed, with a ceiling of 30,000 ft. Payload is 2,236 pounds, just under one standard ton.  Its range with six passengers (“executive” configuration) is up to 1,800+ miles.  It can seat up to ten passengers (plus one pilot), but six is preferred (hence, “executive”). The aircraft which came here was set up for four passengers and a patient. A reported current price is US$ 3.3 million.

What about the single-engine? According to St Barths Exec:

Pilatus PC-12 theoretical range

“Multi-engine aircraft have no advantage over single-engine turboprops when it comes to safety. . . The argument that single-engine aircraft are less safe than multis is based on the presumption of engine failure. However, modern turbine engines are so reliable they are rarely the primary cause of an accident or incident. This never happened for the PC12 world fleet (1800 aircrafts) after almost seven million flight hours.”

So, perhaps, we need to re-think our assumptions on the safety of small aircraft that have modern turboprop engines, sophisticated navigation equipment, autopilot, and computerised controls.

Let’s compare the famous Twin Otter, in its modern form:

The DeHavilland 6-400 Twin Otter Medium Turboprop is manufactured by Viking Air since 2010. The cabin measures 18.5 feet long by 5.3 feet wide by 4.8 feet tall giving it a total cabin volume of 475.9 cubic feet making it comfortable for up to 19 passengers. The baggage compartment can hold up to 17.6 bags assuming your average piece of luggage is less than 5 cubic feet. The DE Havilland 6-400 Twin Otter has a maximum range (not including headwinds, high altitude, hot temperatures, or higher capacity) of 811 miles and a maximum speed of 181 mph . . . . Service ceiling 25,000 feet.”  [Source: prijet dot com]

Also, a current version Twin Otter (19 passengers twin turboprop, 25,000 ft ceiling, cruising air speed 170 – 180 mph, range up to 1,000 mi) is on offer for US$ 6.4 millions,[1] and other sources suggest that old models may possibly go for US$ 1 – 2 millions. For comparison, the Britten Norman Islander is usually piston-engined but a turboprop version is available. As a piston-engined aircraft cruising speed is up to165 mph, ceiling is 13,600 – 19,700 ft and range is up to about 620 miles. Currently, a Turbo version is on sale for US$ 1.3 millions, and piston-engined versions from US$ 195,000 (it has 15,000+ flying hours).[2] Of course, a key advantage is that the Islander requires just one pilot, the Twin Otter (as we will remember) normally flies with two.


[1]           See: https://www.globalair.com/aircraft-for-sale/Twin-Otter-DHC-6-400

[2]           See https://www.controller.com/listings/aircraft/for-sale/list/manufacturer/britten-norman