Swiss Culture and the Pilatus Family
I met my first Swiss person in 1998. I had just started as a demo/test pilot for Pilatus at the Western Hemisphere headquarters in Denver, Co. This par ticular gentleman was the Pilatus completion center manager back then. He was very bright, personable, energetic, and he never stopped moving! As you might expect from a born and raised Swiss guy, he did not accept anything less than perfection. Perfection from himself, perfection from his team, and perfection in the results that Pilatus provided its customers. In those days this proved challenging from time to time. The program was still young, and thus it was deeply engulfed in a learning curve of refinements/improvements. Don’t get me wrong, the program was still fantastic–just not Swiss ‘fantastic’ in those days.
Now I’m sure you’re wondering who this person was? Well, that person was none other than Thomas Bossard, now current CEO of Pilatus Business Aircraft (American subsidiary of Pilatus). He has not changed much in the last 20 years (insert wife and two children)– with the exception of a little gray hair and for sure a little more grace. What’s important to note, and the reason I mention Thomas, is that he exemplifies Pilatus and the Swiss culture. Yes, that very culture that is responsible for producing one of the most iconic and successful business aircraft in recent history, the PC-12!
One could almost equate the success of the PC-12 program and its origins to the famous Douglas DC-3. Both produced by skilled and passionate workers surrounded by a family like culture. Sound familiar? Both programs changed the landscape for aviation during their time, etc., etc. So what is it that makes the Swiss culture and Pilatus so special?
Passion, precision, and family are some of the words that come to mind when describing the culture. Obviously, the Swiss did not get the reputation for building precision time pieces because they were sloppy and lazy. Oh no, quite the contrary. These great folks plan and calculate, then they plan and calculate again, and so on, and so on. This whole mantra is engrained in their culture, and they would have it no other way. The culture and corresponding work ethic translates into an extremely efficient, profitable, and dynamically successful business model (Pilatus). The PC-12 program is an excellent example. If you look back over the last twenty years of the PC-12 program you can clearly note some very distinctive characteristics:
Engineering and self-assessment never slowed down or stopped tinkering
The aircraft , the vendors, aircraft systems, etc., where constantly under scrutiny
They planned and planned ahead–which created an 18-24 month cycle of vendor procurement and production
The planning ahead, combined with appropriate production levels, created pricing integrity and high resale values. Which, leads full circle into…
They never ever ‘discounted’ themselves into the lives of pilots or owners to sell an aircraft. Buyers purchased the aircraft because it exemplified value and performance–made by passionate and precise people.
From my perspective there can be no doubt that passion, precision, and family have been some of the most noticeable and impactful attributes that make the Swiss culture and Pilatus special. Now ask yourself, how does this translate/benefit those of us in the US? Well, let’s walk down that path a little to find out…
Established in 1996, Pilatus Business Aircraft was formed to be the Western Hemisphere headquarters for Pilatus, and spawned the original US dealer network. Swiss passion, precision, and the family qualities were ever apparent with the original selection of these dealers. Thus, the synergies between the Swiss factory and the dealer network matched up well from the start. The dealers, many of whom still exist today, were hands on and acknowledged early on that the PC-12 was a winner. As passionate aviators, they also exemplified the Swiss commitment to their customers. So, it did not take long for the dealers to fall in love with the Pilatus PC-12 and the Pilatus family. The relationship has grown exponentially over the years, and it’s evolved into one of the most tight knit and respected aviation dealer groups of all time. After my time at Pilatus, I was fortunate enough to spend 14 years in the dealer network, and I can say without question that these folks are good people. Working in concert with the Pilatus factory team, the dealer network has helped establish the Pilatus PC-12 as the best aircraft product support programs for the last 14 years! This does not happen without passion, precision, and family at the core. So, although the Pilatus PC-12 is Swiss made, we all get the benefit here in North America of not only the aircraft, but the trickle down characteristics and effects of the Swiss culture! I’m not sure you can find another example like it.
In closing, my apologies for not providing a historical lesson on the Swiss Alphorn, and for not enlightening you on more specifics regarding Swiss cuisine or geography. However, I do hope that this long-winded note has provided a small peak into the wonderful world of Pilatus and to what makes it so special. They’re good people.
Fly safe and fly Swiss.
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