Pilatus PC-12
Pilatus saw a very good 2019, reopening the order book for its PC-24 for the first time, but the company is warily eyeing 2020 and its COVID-related headwinds. (Photo: Pilatus Aircraft)

Pilatus Ponders COVID-19 Future

The Swiss airframer, coming off a record 2019, warns of possible headwinds through 2020.

While 2019 was a successful year for Swiss airframer Pilatus, the company is preparing for a COVID-19-related downturn, it said in a recent annual report. The manufacturer set a production record last year, delivering 83 PC-12NG turboprops, 40 PC-24 light jets, and 11 PC-21 military trainers, with an operating income of CHF153 million ($157 million).

Pilatus noted that the market rollout and ramp-up of production for the PC-24 is now complete, as it reopened the order book for the versatile twinjet for the first time since its launch in 2014. Last year, Pilatus also debuted the PC-12NGX, the latest version of its popular turboprop single, with an improved engine and redesigned cabin, the first of which were recently delivered.

Pilatus PC-24 Clinches Rough-Field Certification

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Pilatus PC-24 Clinches Rough-Field Certification

The rugged twinjet can take off and land on grass, wet earth, dry sand, gravel, and snow.

The Stans-based manufacturer, which began 2020 with an order book worth more than CHF2 billion, was quick to respond to the threat of the virus, introducing short-time work for many of its staff members, a measure that remains in place for less than 20 percent of its 2,289 full-time workers. The company also noted continuing disruptions to its supply chain that require constant reassessment.

“The pandemic has pitched us—and many others—into a period of severe turbulence requiring constant fact-based adjustment," said chairman Oscar Schwenk.

While expressing satisfaction with the company's performance last year, he pointed to its past stewardship, which has kept it free of debt. "In a situation which no one could have foreseen, it is reassuring to know that the financial reserves set aside in the past will ensure we are able to navigate the current crisis in preparation for a clean landing and a renewed takeoff into the future."