Yesterday (April 1), a new PC-12NG (c/n 1898, HB-FXT) conducted a test flight at the Pilatus factory in Stans, Switzerland, wearing the Irish tricolour and Irish Air Corps serial 280.
The utility aircraft departed for Ireland on April 2. There are rumours it will be used in a medical evacuation role during the current COVID-19 pandemic. This aircraft is a recent addition to the three PC-12s already ordered for the service.
The Irish Air Corps ordered three PC-12NGs under a deal worth around €32m, including equipment, with the contract for them signed at Baldonnel-Casement Aerodrome on December 19, 2017. They will be used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, medical evacuation and logistics support. Each has the capacity for nine passengers or will be able to accommodate two stretcher patients along with support staff for the medical evacuation role. The first example took to the air in May 2018 and arrived in the US for fitting out the following June.
The first three Irish Air Corps PC-12NGs have all recently been noted at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, Colorado, where they are undergoing fitting out. The first example, c/n 1795 (ex HB-FSF, N280NG), is already fully painted but has so far only been noted flying at night. The second, c/n 1838 (ex HB-FQW, N281NG), was recently sighted in the US, still unpainted. The third aircraft is c/n 1844 (ex HB-FRC, N282NG), which was also unpainted as of mid-March.
As the last Irish Air Corps AW139 is serialled 279, it was expected the first three PC-12NGs would become 280 to 282 in service. However, it now seems the latest, fourth, aircraft has taken the first serial allocation.