I was walking the ramp at the Titusville Airshow at KTIX a couple of years ago when this neat airplane caught my eye.
It’s a Pilatus P3-05, a 1950’s/60’s-era Swiss trainer. It has that “Pilatus Look:” narrow bodied and graceful, yet sturdy. It looks fun and it looks forgiving, though looks can be deceiving.
The P3 can cruise at 275 knots and redlines at 310. The service ceiling is about 18,000 feet, which is pretty darn good for a normally aspirated engine. She is capable of minus three and plus six G’s. I found this (somewhat shaky) video of a P3 doing a low pass, and this cool video of P3 aerobatics over Switzerland. Nice!
The powerplant is a Lycoming G0-435. It is a geared engine, meaning that the engine does not drive the prop directly but is connected through a gearbox. This has given the GO-435 something of a bad reputation, as geared systems can be complex and expensive to fix if they break. The solution to that is, of course: don’t break it! Keep your prop RPM from getting too low or too high and the gearbox will keep right on turning. Like any other engine, judicious handling of the throttle and the prop levers will keep the engine happy, and frequent flying will keep it from getting ramp rot.
Like a lot of pilots I dream of owning a cool warbird. While many warbirds seem to cost well over half a million dollars and/or have exorbitant operating costs, this is one military-heritage airplane that is potentially within reach. A quick search of the classifieds shows that there are a few P3’s on the market for approximately $100,000. That’s still a lot of dough but it’s relatively cheap in the warbird arena. For an airplane that cruises almost 300 knots, is aerobatic capable, is affordable to operate, AND looks cool, 100 grand isn’t bad.