Case Study

Highly successful plane reached the market in only 3½ years


Concurrent engineering shaved 2½ years off development of the PC-21 training aircraft

Passion for flying

Founded on December 16, 1939 in a meeting room of the Nidwaldner Kantonalbank, Pilatus Aircraft Ltd began as a small supplier to the Swiss Air Force. Since then, the niche supplier has become a global leader for the supply of single-engine training aircraft for the air force as well as for business and work aircraft. The company employs more than 1,300 employees in the Pilatus region of Switzerland and around the globe.

The company’s newest product is the Pilatus PC-21, a training aircraft for a new generation of military pilots. It follows the company’s highly successful PC-12, which is currently the biggest selling single-engine commercial aircraft in the world. There are currently more than 130 on order. This success is no coincidence. It is based on a passion for flying, an obsession for perfection and a willingness to meet customers’ expectations.

The PC-21 not only performs better than other turboprop aircraft, it is also more economical and quieter. With a top speed of 325 knots/hour for horizontal flying and load limits of -4 G to +8 G, it is very suitable for basic and advanced fighter pilot training. Its avionic system is based on an open architecture, with all display systems controlled by software and adaptable to the cockpit environment of each fighter jet. The PC-21, together with instrument and flight simulators, forms an integral part of air force training systems.

Producing with NX

Pilatus developed the PC-21 using NX™ software and Teamcenter® software, both from product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Siemens PLM Software. When Pilatus had to decide between NX and CATIA® software, the company chose NX because its computer-aided design (CAM) functionality was more powerful. “The decisive question was, ‘Do we want to draw or do we want to produce?’” says John Senior, vice president of Pilatus’ research and development department. “The answer was clear: ‘Produce, with NX.’”

Pilatus carried out the design, development and manufacturing of the PC-21 in parallel, because time to market was critical to the plane’s economic success. “We performed all processes in parallel, and carried out the digital modeling according to the master model concept using only a single model,” says Bruno Cervia, project manager at Pilatus, summarizing one of the most important factors for success. “We never worked on different versions of the model.” Concurrent engineering only works when, as with NX and Teamcenter, design and data management systems are tightly integrated.

The combination of NX and Teamcenter offered other great benefits as well – saving time and making release changes easier – according to Hännes Keller, technical IT manager at Pilatus.

Keller points out that the cooperation between Pilatus and Siemens was and is very intensive, noting, “We value this collaboration highly.”

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