Europe’s second-largest civilian PC-12 operator, EAPC, started out in 2012 with a single small aircraft providing transportation to a handful of Belgian customers. Today, seven Pilatus aircraft fly EAPC fractional owners to their destinations in cost-effective comfort. A second PC-24 was added to the fleet in October of this year. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd
As a keen aviation enthusiast and today’s CEO of EAPC (European Aircraft Private Club), Denis Petitfrère acquired with some business partners the “New CAG” flight school at Brussels-Charleroi airport in Belgium in 2010. Brussels-Charleroi is the continental European base of Ryanair, the low-cost Irish airline, and has the second-highest visitor volume of all Belgian airports, or at least had, before the corona pandemic.
Around the time the air academy changed hands, a small group of people looking for a cost-efficient solution for private and business trips within Europe contacted Denis Petitfrère who subsequently developed a business model inspired by firms such as Netjets and Jetfly. He also conducted a market analysis to identify which aircraft would best fit the group’s needs. The PC-12 was on the shortlist right from the start. In the end, however, the project was launched with a smaller single-engine turboprop in summer 2012.
Development of the PC-12 Fleet
With the new business model validated by the users, Denis started looking for a larger aircraft with a higher performance and a more spacious cabin. The fractional owners were keen to have more comfort and also more space for their luggage. A demo flight with the PC-12 NG in July 2013 was the deciding factor: the PC-12 NG with serial number 1380 was ordered and went into service in June 2014. That was the start of a close cooperation between Pilatus and EAPC. The number of fractional owners has grown steadily since then and EAPC has added a new PC-12 NG to its fleet almost every year.
A Special Business Model
EAPC offers its members a fractional ownership programme: membership is acquired through the purchase of an aircraft share which may be larger or smaller according to the member’s needs. Denis Petitfrère explains: “Fractional ownership allows worry-free ownership, with everything taken care of for the owners: organisation, operations, maintenance and availability. Furthermore, purchase and operating costs are shared between all the members, making this type of business model a very attractive proposition.”
Denis emphazises that there is also a social aspect at EAPC besides simple entitlement to use the aircraft: “Many of our members know each other and enjoy flying together whenever there’s an opportunity. We’re keen to preserve that club-like character, so we don’t want to grow beyond a certain size. This is also reflected in a family-like working atmosphere.”
Integration of the PC-24 Super Versatile Jet
EAPC has followed the PC-24 programme with great interest from the beginning, and there was a lot of excitement when the Belgians added their first PC-24 to the fleet in summer 2019. The arrival of this first jet gave renewed impetus to the development of EAPC and reinforced the organisation. EAPC currently has 35 employees working in the air, in the offices or in the hangar at Charleroi Airport – and their duties also include taking care of the second PC-24 which joined the fleet in October of this year.
All EAPC aircraft fly frequently – each PC-12 does around 1,000 hours per year – so aircraft reliability is extremely important, as are the quality and flexibility of maintenance operations. From the outset, EAPC has always entrusted its aircraft to the Authorised Pilatus Service Centre JG Aviation in Gray, France, for servicing. “We’re very happy with their work. And Gray is ideal from a location point of view as many of our aircraft fly between Belgium and Switzerland”, explains Denis Petitfrère.
Looking to the future, Denis says EAPC will remain exclusively European. “We want to continue to offer our fractional owners a comfortable, cost-effective solution for their European travel. Our base will remain in Belgium for the time being, but we may consider additional sites depending on our requirements.” A firm believer in the potential of the PC-24, Denis Petitfrère also looks forward to the arrival of EAPC’s sixth PC-12: the latest PC-12 NGX is on order and scheduled to join the fleet in spring next year.