Five on the Fly: Jed Johnson

Five on the Fly: Jed Johnson

Five on the Fly: Jed Johnson

WHO: Jed Johnson

Pilatus Aircraft

Chief Pilot




1. Can you summarize your aviation background?  

My father got me exposed to aviation. He worked with VanDusen, AAR and Duncan Aviation, so we traveled in GA aircraft a lot when I was growing up. I followed a non-military path through flight instruction, corporate and 135 freight before joining Pilatus at the end of 1996. I was with Pilatus until 2000 when I went to one of our dealers as a salesman for 12 years, flying my own demos, mentoring new owners, doing maintenance flights, etc. After 12 years in that role, and well over 100 turbine transactions, I rejoined Pilatus in 2012. Being a part of entry into service for two new aircraft models and growing the presence of Pilatus in North and South America has been a unique and rewarding challenge. 

2. Describe your role at Pilatus Aircraft and what a typical day looks like. 

In Pilatus Flight Operations, we touch almost every part of the business. Much of our day revolves around the cadence of production flight test, although we can find ourselves waking up anywhere in North or South America or even Europe. Once an aircraft is completed, we then work through test cards to check every system and function of the aircraft on the ground and in the air. The goal is always ZERO mechanical and cosmetic squawks at delivery. We also do some experimental flight test related to STCs the company is developing, and occasionally ferry flights between Switzerland and the U.S. In addition, we are involved in marketing, bringing aircraft to trade shows, attending industry meetings, flying air to air photo missions and speaking at user groups as a subject matter experts introducing updates and new products. 

We are also demo pilots, whether it be to our direct fleet and military customers or potentially to prospects our dealer network is exposing to the aircraft. We interface with the end customers on a regular basis during the specification process to help them tailor the aircraft equipment to their specific needs. At the delivery, we then conduct an acceptance flight and help get them up to speed on all the details related to operating their new aircraft. On the technical side, we interface with our customer service group to help answer operational questions, and we are involved in future programs on aircraft and aircraft systems as well as training/simulation development and audit. Our business is a relationship business, and our pilots are often the face of our company when we travel, so we take our role as ambassadors for the Pilatus family very seriously.

3. From a piloting perspective, what are your favorite features about the PC-12? The PC-24? 

Both aircraft share the same DNA to fit a sweet spot in the marketplace. The value proposition is cabin size/range/payload for the money to purchase/operate. The short and unpaved runway capabilities along with the standard cargo door are the icing on the cake. The best feature is versatility – both machines can do a lot of things very well. Couple that with the quality of construction and customer support, and that is our formula for success. Showing up at airports with short and or austere runways with a turbine aircraft is all part of the fun.

4. How does it feel at the controls of a jet (PC-24)  “off-road?” Can you describe one of the most challenging airports you have landed?  

We just recently had a PC-24 customer delivery from Denver put their aircraft in service in Alaska as an air ambulance. This machine will have a steady diet of gravel runway operations. One of our teams was on site with their pilots for entry into service and familiarization training to get their crew dialed in. The feedback was great; the aircraft performance is not much different than operation of paved runways and the customer is thrilled! We have been into some very challenging “private/ranch” customer runways as well as short runways all over the Americas. The PC-24 demands accurate planning and precision in flying it to utilize these types of challenging runways, but our engineers have provided fantastic tools to make sure we operate safely with appropriate margins. The PC-24, however, does what we say it can do!

5. What upgrades can owner-pilots most appreciate in the recently unveiled PC-12 NGX? 

The NGX is a comprehensive upgrade to a proven design. The FADEC controlled PT6E-67XP is a big part of the story. Engine management is greatly simplified and it provides 100 more horsepower at altitude, improving climb and cruise speed. With this engine management change, it allows for an autothrottle option, automated emergency descent mode and the ability to drop the propeller RPM from 1700 rpm to 1550 rpm, which makes for a quieter cabin. Maintenance intervals and costs are also reduced on NGX. The normal interval is now 600 hours/12 months for inspections and the engine TBO increases from 3,500 hours with an HSI at 2,000 to 5,000 hours with HSI on condition. The engine sends out around 100 monitored parameters wirelessly after each flight and Pratt & Whitney has put a new program in place to cover virtually every contingency of the engine for a cost that is around 30 percent less than what they currently offer. 

Also, the fuel system update no longer requires us to add Prist. The avionics have been upgraded to include a larger Modular Avionics Unit and more powerful Advanced Graphic Modules. This upgrade allows many features on the -24 to be brought to the -12 such as datalink AFIS/ACARS/worldwide weather, PM-CPCLC, ADS-B In to include surface traffic on a 2D airport moving map, built-in electronic checklists to that have abnormal checklists actively cued to the CAS messages, emergency descent mode, RAAS and TCAS II with resolution advisories, pilot modifiable visual approaches, just to name a few. The cabin has also been redesigned with larger windows, new quick-release executive seats that fully berth, redesigned VCCS that moves more air more quietly, with more adjustability and more modern indirect lighting. The NGX is a host of individual updates to the aircraft that together make it a substantial upgrade. 

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