Pilatus Porter PC-6

The winged messenger

She is not beautiful; she is not fast. Despite this the Pilatus Porter PC-6 was the dream of many young men which finally became a reality in 2005: their own plane to launch themselves from as parachutists in the service of Red Bull.

If you were to ask Sigi Angerer, the pilotin- chief of the fixed wing pilots with the Flying Bulls about his opinion of the Pilatus, then you could well think that you could see a trace of pity in his face. One look at the Porter in Hangar-8 alongside beauties such as the Corsair, the B-25 and the Trojan and you soon find out the reason why. This single engine high-wing monoplane has nothing of the elegance and grace of its larger sisters. And despite all this the Pilatus created more joy on its arrival at the Flying Bulls than the arrival of almost any other plane.

Before it arrived there the airplane led the life of an adventuress in Ecuador: firstly in the service of an oil company and then later carrying injured people, passengers and cargoes as it flew across the jungle. In 2004 the Porter was bought back by the Pilatus works and shortly after that it was acquired by the Flying Bulls. Equipped with a turboprop engine, a fixed undercarriage and a tail wheel the PC-6 has outstanding properties with regard to short take offs and landings – even on unpaved runways. That’s one reason why the Porter is so popular in parachuting circles. For its intended use with the Flying Bulls the aircraft’s interior was refitted and a major technical overhaul was undertaken. Not least because of the attractive finish of its paintwork, the Porter can count itself as one of the best looking aircraft for parachutists to jump from; it always attracts a great deal of attention whenever it is used.

For the parachutists of the parachute section of Austrian Army Sports Club – the HSV - the arrival of the Pilatus at Hangar-8 was the fulfillment of a long held wish and that was to have their own aircraft to launch themselves from. This ‘marriage’ between the parachutists and Red Bull had begun as early as the early 1980s. The marketing message ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ was perfectly embodied in real life by these daring young men. With the brand name emblazoned on their parachutes they were an attraction for spectators at many Red Bull events such as Air & Style in Innsbruck, or the opening of Hangar-7. And they had one huge advantage as Hans Huemer, the head of the current Red Bull Skydive Team and the organizer of many aviation and flying shows explains: ‘While the licensing process for presentations by the Flying Bulls at large events can be really time consuming, the necessary permission for the parachute jumpers is usually granted immediately. In addition the sportsmen can be employed extremely effectively due to the flexibility of their aerobatic displays and their proximity to the public.’ In the middle of the 1990s the parachutists from the HSV, the army sports club were in increasing demand for incentive events.

Almost 200 tandem jumps took place each year. In addition there were many parachute displays at various diverse events from Sweden to South Africa. The final step towards professionalism took place in 2008. This was in order to meet a greater demand for demonstration jumps, the increased expenses involved in the maintenance of the equipment and to meet the demands for personal fitness. The Red Bull Skydive Team is made up of five parachutists in addition to Hans Huemer. The team still has its roots at the Schwarzenberg Barracks with the HSV. The parachutists have a second home at Hangar-8 – but that is of course partly due to the Pilatus Porter.

Hans Huemer‘s Logbook

Hans Huemer‘s Logbook

I am rather embarrassed to be writing my logbook because at this point Blacky Schwarz or Sigi Angerer would normally talk about their experiences in helicopters or in fixed wing aircraft. If I were to write about the aerodynamic characteristics of my parachute then most readers would simply turn to another page. This could be on account of the many accounts of its thermal properties and its technical specifications, and it could be because it would also be a passionate tribute to a faithful companion.

For this reason I’ll stick to an airplane; in fact it is the one which is allocated to my skydiving team – the Pilatus Porter. For people who are not aircraft enthusiasts hardly any other airplane is so flexible when it comes to taking off and landing in the most limited space. This airplane is like a mule in the ranks of fixed wing aircraft; it is a real workhorse. It is not a bit sexy, or at all sporty. The designer had no nice little tasks in mind for this aircraft, which was built according to the principle of ‘form follows function’. What about its performance? It reaches 100 knots when the wind is favorable. You really don’t need to worry about collisions with birds. In fact it is quite the opposite.

If we do hove collisions with birds then they are at the tail of the plane. In spite of all this we do not expect any sympathy from you as a reader, even when one or other of you has already thought: ‘They always let Sigi Angerer write about fighter planes and style icons, and poor old Huemer gets a flying tractor.’ For one thing we are united in being very proud of our Porter. For another for a parachutist even the worst travelling conditions are only half as bad as they could be because we get out at the latest half way through the journey. I would not swap the second half of the journey for a flight in an airplane for all the money in the world. That’s because the feeling of freefall, that feeling of absolute freedom as you fall through the air just cannot be beaten. And with that we could return to the splendid aerodynamic properties of my parachute – but I wanted to spare you that.

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