Pilatus announced the development of the PC-12 at the annual convention of the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) in October 1989. The two prototypes were completed on 1 May 1991, with the first flight taking place on May 31, 1991. Certification of the type was originally planned for mid-1991 but a redesign of the wings (increase of wing span and addition of winglets to ensure performance guarantees were met) delayed this. Swiss certification finally took place on 30 March 1994, and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approval followed on 15 July 1994.
As with many other Pilatus aircraft, the PC-12 is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 turboprop engine (the PT6A-67B). It is certified for single-pilot IFR operations, though operators may choose to use a second flight crew member. Pilatus offers the PC-12 in a standard nine-seat airliner form, in a four-passenger seat/freight Combi version, and as a six-seat corporate transport with an option for a seven-seat by adding a three-seat bench in place of seats five and six. A pure freighter model is under consideration.
The PC-12M (Multipurpose) is based on the PC-12, but equipped with a more powerful electrical generation system that enables addition of additional power-consuming equipment. This enables the PC-12M to perform missions such as flight inspection, air ambulance, parachutist dropping, aerial photography, and aerial surveillance. This version is marketed in the United States as the PC-12 Spectre paramilitary special missions platform.
Pilatus announced the PC-12NG (Next Generation) at the 2006 NBAA meeting in Orlando, and officially launched it during the NBAA 2007 in Atlanta. The NG features a more powerful Pratt & Whitney PT6A-67P engine with better climb performance and an increase in maximum cruise speed to 280 kts TAS. The NG also features a Honeywell Primus Apex glass cockpit. The revised cockpit includes automatic pressurization control as well as cursor controlled inputs to the navigation system. The PC-12 NG winglets have also been modified from the original version.
Most PC-12s are used as corporate transports, but recent regulatory changes in Australia, Brazil, Canada, and the United States have cleared single engine turboprops such as the PC-12 for regional passenger transport operations in those countries. This opens a new market for the PC-12 as a regional airliner that would replace older twin piston-engined aircraft.
Original production variant certified in 1994 has a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67B engine. Most, if not all of the /41s have been upgraded to /45s.
Certified in 1996 has a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67B engine, maximum takeoff weight increased to 4,500 kg (9,921 lb).
Certified in 2005 has a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67B engine, maximum takeoff weight increased to 4,740 kg (10,450 lb). Cabin noise measured at 85 dBA in cockpit and 81 dBA at passenger seats.
Variant certified in 2008 has upgraded avionics and a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67P engine. Sometimes known by its trade name PC-12 NG (Next Generation). Cabin noise measured at 90 dBA in cockpit and 85-87 dBA at passenger seats.
Paramilitary special missions platform marketed in the United States, originally called "Eagle".
United States military designation for the PC-12.
Pilatus PC-12 taking off from short, unimproved airfield