FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE
SeaPort Air flies PC12s to achieve low DOCs in scheduled charter ops
Use of fields with short runways keeps pax happy with arrivals at close-in target terminals.
Maintenance and scheduling
Asst Dir Ops Noel McDermott (L) and Dispatcher Shaun Hewitt discuss PDX scheduling for the coming week.
It's a slightly different world when you're operating PC12s in high cycle schedule ops vs the more traditional role as a corporate transport says Dir Maintenance David Shultz. "Product support has been good and we avoid AOGs by keeping good spares inventories at PDX and MEM.
We go through deice boots quite quickly—they are turned on all the time in our operation and they're not designed to be on all the time. Parts are not usually a problem to source from Pilatus in Colorado or Switzerland although we had to wait 90 days last time we had to change a landing gear."
As most PC12s available on the used market have 6-place corporate interiors SeaPort buys 9-place commuter interior kits from Pilatus Business Aircraft at BJC (Rocky Mountain Metro, Denver CO) for about $150,000 per interior.
SeaPort has 4 mechanics at PDX and 4 at MEM with inhouse capabilities including line maintenance, engine removals and LRU changes. Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A engines are typically overhauled at StandardAero and Flightcraft PDX has an excellent avionics shop available on the field says Shultz. PC12s are outfitted with a mix of Garmin 530s, 430s and KLN90s.
High time PC12 is 18,800 hrs and some form of scheduled inspection is accomplished every 12 days or so with average utilization close to 150 hrs/month.
Schedulers are positioned at JNU, MEM and PDX and use Aero Tec AeroTrip software for dispatch and scheduling. "We're very happy with this suite of software," says Scheduler John Hewett who is one of 4 schedulers based at PDX.
Growing into the future
Dir Maintenance David Schultz is happy with overall reliability of the PC12 fleet but keeps a sizeable spares inventory on hand to maximize dispatch reliability.
A growing fleet of PC12s will play a prominent role in SeaPort operations going forward, says McKinney, but the group is also looking at larger capacity Part 121 operating opportunities. "Our future, in terms of longevity and financial health is in commercial markets," says McKinney.
"We feel we can duplicate the FBO-to-FBO model we have at PDX and MEM in other areas—perhaps SMO (Santa Monica CA) or MRY (Monterey CA). Long term, we think it makes sense to look at a dual track operation with Part 121 airline terminal operations as well as PC12 FBO-to-FBO services.
A 30 to 37-seat turboprop—perhaps Saab 340s—may make sense. We'd like to skip over the 19 seat market and look for new larger regional opportunities across the country."
Practicing growth control, however, will remain an important consideration for SeaPort going forward says Day. "We could probably be in twice as many cities as we are today but that would require more capital and strain on human resources. We prefer growth control. We've been creating jobs, with close to 200 employees so far, and we have not laid off pilots."
For SeaPort pilots the prospect of a dual track Part 121 operation—with 30 to 40-seat jets or turboprops—translates into career opportunities says McDermott. "Transitioning to Part 121 ops will involve many steps," he says. "It's a huge undertaking but a challenge we look forward to."
Moving out of SeaPort's non TSA controlled market niche, however, will mean a higher airline terminal cost structure, giving up revenue seats to air marshals and a less user friendly experience for passengers. "We plan to maintain our PC12 FBO-to-FBO scheduled services as it works so well for our passengers and provides us with very effective pilot training and upgrade opportunities."
Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.