Switzerland's first business jet makes maiden flight

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The Pilatus PC-24 taking off on its maiden flight

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Switzerland has joined an elite club with its first homegrown business jet taking to the air for the first time. With the call sign of HB-VXA, the twin-engine prototype Pilatus Aircraft PC-24 Super Versatile Jet made its maiden flight last week, traveling from Buochs Airport in a 55-minute journey across central Switzerland to Brünig.

According to Pilatus, the May 11 flight by test pilots Paul Mulcahy and Reto Aeschlimann came at the end of months of trials and refinements and went off without incident as the Prototype P01 jet climbed to 10,000 ft (3000 m) in about three minutes. Over the journey, the aircraft was accompanied by a Pilatus PC-21 advanced trainer aircraft, while telemetry was monitored by engineers on the ground.

The US$9 million PC-24 was first unveiled in Geneva on May 21, 2013 and is designed to compete with the Embraer Phenom 300 and Cessna Citation CJ4. Powered by two Williams FJ44-4A turbofan engines, each generating 15 kN (3,400 lbf) of takeoff thrust each, it has a wingspan of 17 m (55 ft) and can carry 10 passengers.

With a design inspired by the popular PC-12 turboprop, it's made to operate from very short and even unmade runways. Pilatus says that it's the first business jet to be equipped with a cargo door as standard, and that the interior is customizable to maximize cargo or passenger space as required. Top speed is 425 kts (489 mph, 787 km/h) and it has a range of 1,949 nmi (2,243 mi, 3,610 km)

The company says that three prototypes have been built for the current 2,300 hour test program. Half of these will be flown in Switzerland and the other half in other environments around the world. Certification and first deliveries are scheduled for 2017 with at least 84 units already pre-sold.

"It's an emotional moment for sure, and another major milestone in the Pilatus and Swiss aviation history", says Oscar J. Schwenk, Chairman of the Pilatus Board of Directors. "Seeing our new business jet take off on its maiden flight is something we've worked very hard for, and dreamt about for a long time. Today, at last, that 'Swiss Dream' became a reality.“

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