Threshold Review: Pilatus PC-12 by SimWorks Studios
December 17, 2023
The Pilatus PC-12 is a single engine, turboprop, business aircraft designed by Swiss aircraft manufacturer Pilatus. It was first announced in the late 80’s, and the first flight occurred on May 31st 1991. It entered service with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, an Australian operator that delivers medical services to remote areas of Australia in 1994, and they still operate 32 of the type to this day. The PC-12 is equipped with a Pratt and Whitney PT-6 engine, a popular engine fitted on over 100 different aircraft types. The PC-12 was developed into three variants over the years, the original, the PC-12NG introduced in 2008, and the PC-12NGX, introduced in 2019.
SimWorks Studios have developed the PC-12/47 for the simulator. They developed their PC-12 in cooperation with Fly7, a major operator of the type based in Switzerland, as well as the aircraft manufacturer, Pilatus, who reviewed the aircraft, and judged it up to their standards. SWS also had the help of real PC-12 pilots in testing the aircraft. The aircraft comes in two major variants, the four-bladed variant, and the five-bladed variant.
For those who are unaware, SimWorks Studios started out developing military and naval oriented products for Prepar3D, but has since moved on to developing General Aviation aircraft for Microsoft Flight Simulator, such as the Daher Quest Kodiak.
Distribution and Installation
The SWS PC-12 is downloaded via an installer, and is a 1.1GB download, which takes up around 4GB on disk once installed. It comes with a manual, which has tips for operating the aircraft, as well as various specifications, cockpit and system familiarization, and cruise performance numbers. Also provided are specific configurations for add-on GTN panels from TDS and PMS, as well as the Sky4Sim tablet.
Upon first loading in, the very first thing I noticed is the visuals. In particular, the 3D modeling really caught my eye, and that visual detail is not spared for anywhere else on the aircraft, which I’ll go into more detail later. I quickly dove head first into flying the aircraft, which I haven’t really been a person to seek out flying a turboprop in the sim, and coming from a perspective of a guy who mainly flies airliners, the PC-12 feels familiar in a sense, but provided for a very different experience than my regular hub-to-hub IFR Airbus flying.
Starting with the exterior, the model is quite good, and for those who love to count each individual rivet, I can assure you that you certainly can waste your time doing that with the SWS PC-12. The visual detail on the exterior carries over to the engine compartment, where you can open the panel and see the guts of the Pratt and Whitney PT-6A in detail. There are also other operable panels, such as the electronics bay, lovingly named the “Hell Hole” by some PC-12 pilots. On closer inspection, you can see all the little Pilatus plaques put around the aircraft, for example on the gear struts, giving you information on the serial number and the date it was made.
Moving into the cockpit, we can see the work that the SWS team put into the cockpit really shines. The 3D modeling, like on the exterior, is great, with the unique shape of the yoke, to the oxygen lever getting attention to detail. For those who love night flying, the lighting has a very nice hue to it and doesn’t overpower the instruments too much like I see on many aircraft. The displays also have lots of detail, and I’m able to look really closely and see individual pixels on the PFD, MFD, and EIS system.
The high level of visual fidelity continues on into the cabin as well. The SimWorks Studios PC-12 has three different cabin layouts included, executive, cargo, and commuter. Each variant is really well modeled, with details such as boxes and a cargo net with the cargo version, and the relatively bare bones and tightly packed layout of the commuter version. Special attention has also been paid to the executive layout, with many little features, such as moving seats and functioning tray tables, and even the little drawers that you can keep things such as snacks and drinks in for a long flight. The drawers even respond to lateral g-forces, closing when in a strong bank. There’s also the tiny bathroom at the front with a functional light! For some of the included liveries, the cabin color scheme changes based on the registration. For all the variants, there are two doors, one cargo door in the back, and a passenger door with integrated stairs in the front. Those doors are well done, but it takes some time to find the click spot for the rear cargo door. Also, the interior changes as you load the aircraft. Like what they previously did with their Kodiak, boxes show up if you put cargo in the cargo variant, and passengers show up based on load as well.
The systems are really well done, and SWS have gone out of their way to make them as realistic as possible. Right out of the box, you’re able to swap out the avionics for either the PMS GTN 750 Nxi or the TDS GTN 750 Nxi. Since I own the TDS GTN, I decided to use that in the process of my review. There was a big bug that popped up while using the TDS, but that was eventually squashed. The autopilot works very nicely, and it integrates well with the GTN 750. Throughout the aircraft, practically all the systems function as they should in the real world. Also simulated are all the circuit breakers on the aircraft, which allows you to mess with all the systems. Although, failures are not yet modeled, SWS has announced that failures and a tablet will come as a later upgrade.
Flight and Handling Characteristics
When I was talking to a real PC-12 pilot about flying the plane, he told me that “this airplane loves to fly.” The PC-12 is known for its high lift characteristics, which gives it a distinctive nose-down approach attitude, which my airliner-oriented brain had to get used to. Just like in real life, the Pratt and Whitney PT-6A in the PC-12 is super powerful, and when used improperly, can yield consequences, such as practically drifting on the takeoff roll if you overtorque the engine. The PC-12 is a picky bird, and that is clearly evident in SWS’ rendition. One unique thing about the PC-12 is the Rudder-Aileron Interconnect, which, as the term implies, connects the rudder and aileron inputs, which help with turn coordination and help prevent adverse yaw.
Despite this learning curve, the SWS PC-12 is a joy to fly. I love the way it handles, and the power of the PT-6A makes it feel more like a sports car than an airplane. I quickly learned the hard way that you need to treat the engine right or there will be consequences. One thing I did notice on my first few landings was the tendency to slide almost frictionlessly around on rollout, but I then learned, that it was a sim limitation with the ground/air transition being janky, and once I had more experience flying the aircraft at the correct speeds, skating around wasn’t a problem.
I’m particularly fond of the sound aspect of flight simulation, especially with turboprops. The interior sounds are very nice, with each button and switch having a nice click sound, with some variation for each. The intricate soundscape follows to the cabin and the doors, where you can hear various sounds like the window blinds, which are simulated, as well as drawers for refreshment in the executive variant, where you can hear the glasses making noise from being moved.
Moving out to the exterior of the aircraft, the main event here is the PT-6A turboprop, which SWS have accurately simulated the various stages of the engine, such as beta range, shutdown, and startup where you can hear the classic whine of the PT-6 engine coming to life. I could also hear a difference in sounds going from the 4 blade to the 5 blade variant, which adds to the overall immersion very nicely.
CPU: Ryzen 7 5800X3D
GPU: RTX 3080Ti
I have a pretty powerful system, and the PC-12 runs great on my machine with ultra settings. For an aircraft that is this visually appealing, much consideration seems to have been given for the performance optimization. Honestly, I don’t know how they did it, but it runs really nicely on my machine, and I have yet to experience any stuttering.
Overall, the SimWorks Studios PC-12 is a beautiful aircraft, and is a joy to fly. Being so used to flying airliners, I did not expect to have as much fun flying a turboprop as I did. Eventually, I had to remind myself to not have too much fun as I had a review to write. The SWS team has clearly put in a lot of effort into building this aircraft as well as they could.
You can get the SWS PC-12 for your virtual hangar at their store, the iniBuilds Store, or simMarket for around $27.25 USD. It is well worth the price tag, especially when you take into account the many features like a tablet and failures coming to the aircraft as a separate update.
Many thanks to the team at SimWorks Studios for providing me with a copy of their PC-12 for review, and a special thanks to Gabriel and Alex for their help, and Brandon (captgamn on Discord), a real PC-12 pilot, for teaching me how to tame the beast that is the PC-12!
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