FLEET FACTS: Theoretical Practice Makes Imperfect

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” — Yogi Berra

As we continue to celebrate a stellar safety record for our domestic turboprop fleet, you can’t help but draw the comparison to Yogi Berra’s quote. While training has always been at the forefront of successful flight operations, it has never been highlighted to the extent it is now.

Generally speaking, piston aircraft pilots were relegated to in-plane transition/recurrent training or flight training devices (FTDs), while turbine aircraft crews were, with few exceptions, mandated to train with classroom Level 4, 5, and 6 FTDs all the way up to 3-axis, full-motion simulators. More recently, technology has made flight simulation more accessible to piston and turbine aircraft types. In contrast, we see broader acceptance of in-aircraft training amongst turbine operators.

So what do all these factors have in common? The answer is increased operator awareness of the consequences of inadequate training, aided by the FARs and reinforced by aviation insurance underwriters to train, fly, and maintain flying skills at the highest proficiency possible. Technically advanced aircraft, both piston and turbine, lend themselves to more cockpit and procedural standardization. Thus “practice” has never been so visible nor the expected norm as it is now in our ever-increasing safety culture. Gone are the days where you transition into a different aircraft by reading the POH and taking the aircraft around the patch.

In this article we are reviewing second-quarter 2015 performance for the top 12 single- and twin-turboprops in this workhorse segment, representing 13,598 active airframes worldwide. In total, 89 new aircraft were produced during the second quarter of 2015 within this segment. Fortunately, we continue to enjoy very low domestic losses.

 

AircraftProducedActiveUS RegistryIntl. RegAccidentsFatals

TWIN TURBOPROPS
Avanti Piaggio * 235 228 112 116 0 0
Cheyenne 1021 752 366 386 1 1
Conquest 598 511 343 168 0 0
King Air 90 series 2711 2201 1198 1003 0 0
K/A 100/200/250/300/350 4165 3813 2068 1745 2 0
Merlin/Metro 410 235 126 109 1 0
MU-2 714 330 237 93 0 0
Twin Commander 902 706 276 430 0 0
SINGLE ENGINE TURBOPROPS
Caravan ** 2333 2200 641 1559 0 0
Meridian 597 576 445 131 1 0
Pilatus PC-12 1339 1317 874 443 1 0
Socata TBM series 766 729 562 167 1 0
Total All Aircraft 15791 13598 7248 6350

 

A Cheyenne that crashed on approach to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, killing all four people on board, was the sole fatal accident of the entire turboprop segment. The pilot had completed recurrent training one week before the flight and cited smoke in the cockpit prior to the crash.

Avanti Piaggio celebrated its first EVO delivery in the second quarter. New EVO contracts were announced with operators in the United Kingdom, including Zenith Aviation, along with multiple Malaysian interests. A strong showing at ABACE 2015 demonstrates increasing market confidence in this aircraft. The EVO is a 460-mph speed merchant, the latest expression of Piaggio’s avant-garde pusher design.

King Air 90 and 200 series remain the go-to air ambulance platforms in the U.S. and abroad. Of the 89 turboprop aircraft produced during the second quarter of 2015, 28 were King Airs. Beechcraft recently announced the next avionics suite and completion upgrades to be certified initially for the 250 series this year, followed by the 90 series in 2016. Upgrades include a Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion cockpit suite to compete against Garmin-equipped aircraft.

Merlin and MU-2 worldwide fleets have remained unchanged and stable.

Twin Commander: What has been called the best-supported legacy turboprop in North America continues to see upgraded platforms re-enter service in the U.S. and abroad. This type had two airframes de-register in the second quarter, one domestic and international.

 

Single-Engine Turboprops

Caravan production represented 41 percent of all single-engine turboprop production in the second quarter. In a dramatic reversal, domestic deliveries outpaced international deliveries at a rate of 3 to 1. Cessna recently announced the Grand Caravan EX will be fitted with McCauley four-bladed scimitar propellers to gain 15 lbs. of payload, increased climb performance, and longer time between overhaul.

Meridian production was a modest six airframes in the second quarter, down eightfold from the first quarter. However, increased production is anticipated for the M500 and M600 series, which sport enhanced performance, avionics suites, and completions.

Pilatus PC-12 platform sales expanded into Chile for the first time while Pilatus coincidentally announced the opening of a new Chilean service center. The PC-12 logged its five-millionth hour in May. Pilatus announced that 2014 was its best sales record ever, besting 2013 sales by 38 percent.

TBM: production was a mild 17 airframes. U.S. domestic deliveries dominated international deliveries at a rate of 14 to 1. TBM has delivered 76 TBM 900s to date. TBM first-time sales to Mexican and Spanish owners may be a harbinger for future growth in southern Europe and Latin America.

Clearly all pilots of this segment strive to maintain and improve proficiency whether in the airplane, an FTD, or a full-motion simulator. The vast majority of owners, operators, OEMs, service centers, training facilities and owner groups have kept currency and proficiency as top priorities and have been honored by yet another stellar quarter of industry-leading low losses — validating Yogi Berra’s “theory” that “practice makes perfect.”

Dale Barnard and Tom Surgalski are with Gallagher Aviation (formerly NationAir). Dale is a commercial rotor wing specialist and Gallagher Aviation’s air medical team leader. He can be reached at dale_barnard@ajg.com; 360.635.8008. Tom Surgalski serves as Gallagher Aviation’s claims and safety advisor. He has spent his entire career in aviation and is an accredited IS-BAO auditor. He can be reached at tom_surgalski@ajg.com; 630.549.3611.