South Africa's Trollope Mining Services has recently taken on a PC-12 for site visits. “In 2014 we made a strategic move to also operate outside South Africa, and bought into a business in the southern DRC,” explains MD Guy Hopkins. “At the time we used to operate a Cessna C208, and we had just bought a brand new C208 EX, the first in Africa. We used this machine to fly to the DRC on many occasions, however the weather over lake Kariba in summer can cause some bad conditions, and the distance lends itself to a five hour flight. So once we could justify the purchase of the PC-12, it reduced the flying time to around 3.5 hours, and you fly above the weather most of the time. A Caravan's range is 1,000 nm, while a PC-12 can go to 1,600 nm.
“The machine has performed very well; we have had a few gremlins in the avionics but they seem to have settled down. It has more than 260 hours on it already and is used primarily for ourselves, but we do the occasional charter. We operate 11 contracts in South Africa, two in Botswana, two in the DRC and one in west Africa.
“All the features it has are new to us. The challenge was getting used to the pusher/shaker, pressurisation, Honeywell avionics, electric gear and the speed. We are now able to get to the sites that are far away more often as its quicker, and the 300 hour service intervals are a bonus, as the Caravan needed servicing every 100. We average 300 hours a year on the Caravan so that is three services, whereas if we average this on the PC-12 it'll only be one annual service.”
The company regularly uses short dirt strips and tends to operate at short notice. “If we need something sorted, we send people in ASAP,” continues Hopkins. “Our aim is to grow more in the Southern African Development Community region, which is well within the range of the aircraft, so it would be used a lot more.”
Trollope Mining Services operates in Africa with a fleet consisting of a PC-12, a Cessna C210, a Robinson R66 and a Robinson R44. The helicopters are flown by internal staff, while the fixed wings are manned by partners as well as one permanent pilot.