It will probably be a while before my next larger article. Partly, it’s because I have quite a bit going on in life outside of blogging at the moment and also because I have to take a longer and closer look at all the changes WordPress has made to the editing functionality.
I’ll also be taking the opportunity to do more intensive housekeeping tasks on the blog. I’ll be keeping everything accessible to you, though you might see a few changes here and there from one visit to the next.
You might also see some of the older articles disappear for a while. The text is saved, but I might be taking them off the site for a bit until I can bring them up to scratch in quality and structure with more recent articles. Rest assured, if you see a favorite article of yours vanish, it’s not permanently gone.
I’m also testing the blog with different themes that WordPress offers, so a new look may become part of the changes you see.
Thanks for your patience and continued readership.
As quintessentially Swiss as fine cheese, precision timepieces and Swiss Army knives; Pilatus’ PC-6 Porter family of aircraft have been proudly representing the small nation’s aviation industry to the world for over half a century.
Progressing from piston powered early variants to the turboprop versions we see today, the Porter family has assured its longevity and value through unrivaled STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) abilities. Indeed, the Porter is renowned for its ability to operate from areas that would otherwise only be accessible by helicopter.
Able to operate in a wide variety of climatic and weather conditions as well has having been used on every continent on Earth including both polar ice caps, the Porter is still supported by Pilatus more than 50 years after its first flight in 1959.
Let’s spend some time with the Pilatus PC-6 Porter:
Wings for Work and Fun
When a particular type of aircraft earns the “Swiss Army knife with wings” nickname; it’s because that type exhibits an exeptional degree of versatility, flexibility and adaptability. Many aircraft have had that nickname bestowed upon them; it’s particularly appropriate in the case of the PC-6 and not simply because of its country of origin.
The resumé of the PC-6 is indeed a very long one; it would be far less of a challenge to compile a complete list of jobs it hasn’t done and environments where it hasn’t worked than to make a list of those it had.
In purely utilitarian terms, the Porter family has found much favour in work that calls for low speed and and high stability. As such, it’s proven itself very useful in police work, search and rescue, air ambulance, military observation, aerial survey work, firefighting and agricultural work to name but a few.
Outside of hard work, the PC-6 can put its exceptional STOL abilities to work getting more intrepid holiday makers to much less accessible and off-the-beaten-track locales. With the ability to operate from short, semi-prepared strips on the top or slopes of mountains; a porter could get one access to an unforgettable day of skiing or exploring a glacier.
The popularity of the PC-6 as a skydiving platform almost goes without saying. Its impressive stability and capacity to reach jumping heights faster than some other types makes the Porter much sought after for jumping in both civilian and military circles.
The PC-6 can also list acting in its list of accomplishments. The aircraft featured significantly in the 1990 film “Air America” which starred Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. Two Porters were seen in the 1994 film “Drop Zone” which starred Wesley Snipes. A Porter was also seen in the 1995 James Bond film “Goldeneye” which starred Pierce Brosnan.
With as unique a machine as the PC-6 is and the unique flying qualities that were designed into it, it should come as no surprize that it has been used to set a number of records over the years:
In 1960, the prototype set a record for the highest landing by a fixed wing aircraft at 5,750 metres when it set down on the Dhaulagiri glacier in Nepal.
A PC-6/A2-H2 set the world altitude record for aircraft of its weight class at 13,485 metres in 1968.
An Australian army PC-6/B1-H2 set the record for longest distance flown in a straight line when it was flown 3,893 kilometres from the west coast to the east coast of Australia.
1998 saw a PC-6/B2-H4 used to set the world record for banner towing by pulling a 1,500 square metre banner over Bremen, Germany.
In 2001, an American registered PC-6/C-H2 was used in the setting of three records. It set a record for the most take offs and landings by one aircraft in a 24 hour period in support of a skydiver setting a record of 500 jumps completed in 24 hours
The same Porter was used to set a record for the most consecutive take offs and landings in a 24 hour period with the same pilot at the controls. The result was 424 take offs and landings over 21 hours.
The Porter Family
The Pilatus Porter family covers around 20 variants, most of which were created by modifying earlier versions.
In the most general of senses, the best way to look at this aircraft family is through the divide of piston engine and turboprop engine powered versions.
The Piston Porters: The PC-6 340, 350, PC-8 and PC-6D
The earliest member of the Porter family was PC-6 340. The basis of this name is in the Lycoming 340 horsepower piston engine it possessed. The PC-6 340 was built in two subvariants, the 340-H1 and 340-H2.
The 340-H1 differed from the baseline 340 in having a modified landing gear design and a somewhat increased maximum takeoff weight from just under to just over 2,000 kg. the 340-H2 saw the maximum takeoff weight increased to 2,200 kg.
With the introduction of a Lycoming 350 horsepower engine to the design, the 340 became the 350 with coresponding H1 and H2 subvariants.
These early configurations of the PC-6 are truly rare sights owing not only to the fact that Pilatus made less than 100 piston powered machines before switching the PC-6 to turboprop engines, but also due to the fact that most surviving piston engine porters were converted to turboprop engines at somepoint in their lives.
1967 saw the debut of the PC-8 Twin Porter, an unsuccessful attempt two add a two engine variant to the family. Work on the PC-8 was halted in 1969.
The last chapter of the PC-6 story that involves a piston engine was written in 1970, when the PC-6/D debuted. Powered by a Lycoming turbocharged piston engine, only one PC-6/D was ever built. It is perhaps unsurprising that this variant was not successful given that the Porter had been running very well on turboprop engines for nearly a decade before the PC-6/D first flew.
The Turbo-Porters: The PC-6 A, B, C and AU-23
Pilatus was quick to shift the Porter from piston to turboprop power early in the type’s life. The first prototype of a Turbo-Porter took place in 1961, two years after the first flight of the initial piston powered Porter prototype.
The first generation of the Turbo-Porters were the PC-6/A versions. This group consisted of the baseline PC-6/A as well as A1 and A2 sub variants. All three versions drew their power from members of the French made Turbomeca Astazou engine line.
The second generation, and by far most numerous and popular, of the Turbo-Porter line debuted in 1964 when the first PC-6/B took to the air with a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A engine driving the propeller. Both aircraft and engine were relatively new when they first flew together in 1964 and both have gone on to become legendary machines in their own ways. Indeed, the reliability of the PT6A engine family has likely had much to do with the longstandng reputation for reliability that the PC-6 aircraft possesses.
The B version of the Turbo-Porter encompasses the baseline PC-6/B and three subvariants; the B1, B2-H2 and the B2-H4. The B, B1 and B2-H2 are primarily differentiated by the version of PT6A engine they use. By contrast, the B2-H4 is an offshoot of the B2-H2 with a strengthened internal structure and refined flying surfaces that include and enlarged tail and modified wingtips. These modifications resulted in the B2-H4 having a significantly higher maximum takeoff weight compared to the B2-H2.
The third generation of Turbo-Porter is the PC-6/C, the prototype of which flew in 1965. This was an American license built member of the Porter family by the Fairchild Hiller Corporation with a view to providing American forces in Vietnam with a multi-purpose armed STOL aircraft.
The C version consisted of the C prototype along with the C1, C2-H2 and the AU-23 Peacemaker, all of which took power from different versions of the Garrett TPE311 engine.
The AU-23 Peacemaker was the U.S. Air Force name for 15 PC-6/C aircraft which were tested for combat use between 1970 and 1972. Ultimately, due to insufficient speed and structural failures, the aircraft were not accepted for combat by the USAF. However, the 15 aircraft were provided to the Royal Thai Air Force in 1972 under the Military Assistance Program.
The Porter Today and Learning More
In August of 2017, Pilatus announced that the PC-6 production line would close in 2019. However, they also announced the intent to continue supporting the aircraft for at least 20 years past that point. A total of around 600 PC-6 aircraft had been built when production ended in early 2019 and well over 200 are known to be actively flying in militaries or on civil registers worldwide.
The PC-6 is a much sought after aircraft and does very well for itself on second hand markets. If you see one, it will most likely be a version of the PC-6/B line, though the particular aircraft you see may not have started out that way. It has not only been piston powered Porters that were converted to turboprop engines, more than a few Astazou and Garrett powered versions have been converted to Pratt & Whitney engines and redesignated as B models.
As it stands, unless a new aircraft type of similar or better STOL abilities comes to be, members of the PC-6 family are very likely to be seen still earning their keep in practical ways when the design marks its centenary.
If you wish to know more about the PC-6, it’s history, development and the current disposition of known extant airframes, this website is a wealth of such information: http://www.pc-6.com
The 2019 edition of the annual Pardubice Aviation Fair took place on the weekend of June 1st and 2nd. The weather was sunny and clear and the event was the usual well oganised affair I’ve come to expect.
In the immediate post Second World War period, Spain was still reeling financially and socially from the rigors of the civil war which had ravaged the country from 1936 to 1939 and left Fransisco Franco and his Nationalist policies in charge of the country.
World War II did nothing to improve things in any regard for Spain and the nation remained in a state of financial depression and isolation throughout the conflict.
Though Spain took a non-combatant stance in World War II, Franco’s right-wing leanings and good relations with Axis powers ensured that the victorious Allied nations were initially cold to good relations with Spain through the late 1940s and the bulk of the 1950s. In response to this, Franco initially steered Spain in the direction of self-sufficient autarky despite the fact that the country was still financially very fragile and bureaucracy and corruption were rife.
In the context of aviation, it was a time when Spanish aircraft companies moved away from license building the machines of companies from other countries and were encouraged to design their own aircraft. It was a direction that bred mixed results and, in many cases, aircraft types that generated little foreign interest that saw very limited production
One of those companies was CASA, short for Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA. Founded in 1923, CASA became one of the most famous aircraft manufacturers in Spain and was responsible for building several aircraft types that played large parts in the nation’s history. CASA merged with another legendary Spanish aircraft company, Hispano Aviación, in the early 1970s and became one of the original companies in the formation of the Airbus consortium.
Good, Just not Good Enough
First flown in 1955 as a scaled up variation of an older CASA design, the C-202 Halcón, the Azor had airlines as its target market. The aircraft was intended for use by the Spanish national airline, Iberia, to fly their short and medium length routes inside the country. The Azor had a capacity for 40 passengers
However, luck would not be on the Azor’s side for a career in the civil sector. While it was a quite capable flying machine of competent design, it was simply lacking in performance and capacity compared to contemporary designs of American and European origins. The Azor also lacked a pressurised passenger cabin, something airlines would definitely be looking for.
By the time the Azor was ready to go into service in 1958, it had been surpased in nearly every regard by contemporaries like the Fokker F-27 from the Netherlands and the Convair CV-440 from America.
Ultimately, Iberia chose the Convair CV-440 over the Azor and the CASA aircraft received no further interest from the civil sector.
Air Force to the Rescue
Iberia’s lack of interest did not mark the end of the Azor. While the C-207 was never intended for military use, the Spanish air force was desperate to replace their aging fleet of CASA 352 transport aircraft. The CASA 352 was a post war Spanish built version of the German Junkers Ju-52 transport, a design that dated to the early 1930s.
CASA 352s had seen extensive use in Spanish West Africa from the late 1940s through the 1950s and were well ready to be replaced in the transport role.
The Azor was available and fit the air force specification for a new transport. Shortly after Iberia decided against purchasing the aircraft, the Spanish government purchased 10 of the basic C-207B version of the Azor for the air force, this version of the aircraft could carry 40 passengers or 400 kilograms of cargo. In 1960, ten examples of the slightly improved C-207C version were ordered.
Production of the Azor lasted from 1958 to 1967 with a total of 22 examples made including the two C-207A prototypes. All 22 aircraft were taken into Spanish air force service.
The Azor provided the Spanish air force with reliable, if unremarkable, service from 1960 to 1982. It carried out cargo and passenger transport as well as medical transport duties and served as a jump platform for paratroopers. Some references indicate that a few were modified to carry out aerial survey and mapping work.
The Azor was replaced by another CASA product, the C-212 Aviocar.
In roughly two decades of service, only one Azor was ever lost in an accident. In 1977, an Azor fatally crashed into a mountain while on approach to land at Valencia.
What Remains and Learning More
With such a small number of the type having been built and none seeing service outside of Spain, it should come as no surprise that one would have to travel to Spain to see an Azor these days.
Five Azors are known to have escaped being scrapped after the fleet was retired and are publicly viewable today.
Three are in the vicinity of Madrid, two are on display at the Museo del Aire in the Cuatro-Vientos suburb while the other is on display outside the CASA factory at Getafe.
The other two Azors are in the Seville area, one on display outside a sports facility in the Gelves district and another at the city’s airport. The one at the airport is only a fuselage and in poor condition, likely used as a firefighting or rescue procedures trainer.
There are no Azors flying today and it’s very unlikely the world will ever see one fly again.
There isn’t much English language information available online about the Azor, but I’ve found these websites respond reasonably well to online translator functions:
By: Scott H. Gloodt
Independently published (2018)
The Beech 18 is easily one of the most legendary and storied of American aircraft. With a flying career that began before World War Two and saw the aircraft equally active between military and civilian operators for decades, one might be forgiven for thinking that anything that could be written about this machine already has been.
In 2018, “I’ll take the 18” was published by Scott H. Gloodt. Mr. Gloodt is an author and airline pilot with significant time at the controls of the Beech 18.
At over 300 pages, this book explores a bygone era of American aviation when the Beech 18 was the backbone of numerous small air transport companies across the nation from the 1950s to the early 1980s.
Through the length of the book, Mr. Gloodt brings across the nature of the air freight business as it was when he flew the Beech 18. Each aircraft in a company’s fleet was as much an individual as the pilots the company had on staff. Pilots had their favorite particular machine to fly as no two Beech 18s were equiped the same and no two flew exactly the same.
The author also makes clear that the Beech 18 was an aircraft that one did not stop flying until the wheel chocks were in place. It was a demanding, but dependable flying machine.
The life of the Beech 18 freighter pilots of the period was full of exhausting work schedules, strange and varied payloads along with high competition and deep camaraderie. This book brings that across on every page.
I can happily recommend this book with no reservations.
This link will take you to the official page of the book and author where you can order the book for yourself:
In my recent post about pre 2019 season activities at the Kunovice Air Museum, I mentioned the plan to restore the first Let L-410 Turbolet prototype to its first flight colours to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that first flight.
In the last few days, that restoration has been completed and the freshened “Matylda” was rolled out into the sun.
These photos show “Matylda” together with OK-JRP, the second L-410NG prototype and the youngest of the L-410 family. OK-JRP had its first flight within the last month.
All of these photos are property of the Kunovice Air Museum.