French operator VolDirect has obtained approval to operate commercial flights with the Pilatus PC-12 under instrument flight rules (IFR).
Until now, business travellers in France in most cases had no choice but to organise their air travel via Paris. Recognising the problem, two entrepreneurs from Brittany, Fredoric Caussarieu and Jean Paul Legandre, saw an opportunity to develop a new business model and set up the VolDirect airline in 2009. The company currently operates two aircraft flying direct routes from western France to destinations across Europe. VolDirect operates a Pilatus PC-12 NG flying under the call sign F-HOLI, and also a Daher TBM 850.
In a first phase, VolDirect flights were only available to staff at seven companies in the region. In December 2015, however, the French aviation authority, DGAC, approved VolDirect to operate its PC-12 NG on a commercial basis. As a result, flights are now available to all passengers without restriction. The EU has now (March 2017) accepted SET-IMC commercial operations.
Passenger oxygen mask system
Pilatus provided assistance to VolDirect by developing a new system to provide oxygen masks which are automatically presented to passengers in the event of an emergency. In the standard PC-12, the masks are stowed in the side panels. This meant VolDirect was subject to a restriction on its commercial PC-12 operations. Instead of approval up to altitudes of 30,000 feet, the flight was limited to a maximum of 25,000 feet. The French authorities would not drop this restriction until the emergency oxygen masks were reconfigured to drop automatically from the ceiling in front of the passenger, as is the norm on commercial airliners.
The newly developped option can now be ordered ex-works for new aircraft, and also for retrofitting in earlier PC-12. Pilatus has already equipped two aircraft, including F-HOLI, with the new system.
In addition to ferrying business travellers around Europe during the week, F-HOLI is also often used for private travel at the weekend.