Filming a testimonial about my Pilatus PC-12

Back in July 2014, I spent a great couple of days shooting a testimonial video about my Pilatus PC-12 aircraft. Here it is:

(Its also available on Vimeo – here)

This is the back story about making the video.

Pilatus Australia wanted to create some testimonial videos about the PC-12 aircraft with an Australian focus. I was approached to see whether I’d be prepared to help them to film such a testimonial, focussed upon my ownership experience with VH-TCP.

I was more than happy to help out – because I really love the plane, and I love flying it 🙂

While I wasn’t paid to do this (and wasn’t interested in being paid to do this), this was done as a commercial film shoot.

We spent two days in filming the video – two very full days!

The company engaged by Pilatus to do the shoot was Digital Black (

The whole exercise felt like I had walked onto a Hollywood film set, and the resulting video looks like a movie. I was blown away by their professionalism and skill in design, direction, filming, and editing.

As with most photography, great outcomes like this are a combination of excellent decisions made during the filming process, shooting a lot of raw footage, and then being brutally selective about what to keep in the final result.

The initial scenes were of me driving to the airport. We started before dawn, attaching cameras with suction cups onto my Tesla Roadster and doing video shots around the back blocks near Adelaide Airport. We then did multiple takes of me driving up to the Pilatus hangar at the airport, just as the sun started to come up.

Then we spent ages in the hangar, doing a lot of takes of me driving the car up to the plane, getting out of the car, and walking up the steps into the cabin.

These shots were done with a steadycam handheld camera rig and a variety of other camera rigging equipment to get the various angles that you see in the final result.

We tried a number of other things that morning that didn’t wind up in the final cut, including having cameras mounted on the aircraft looking in various directions as I taxied the plane around the tarmac in front of the hangar.

Next, we filmed some interviews about my experiences with owning and flying the aircraft, and these are the pieces that are rendered in black and white in the result.

I’ve been asked if those words were scripted. They were not.

There was a list of questions that the guys asked me, and I simply said, in response, what I felt about the plane and my experiences in owning it. It was very much a heartfelt conversation for me, and I think this comes across!

One of the great frustrations of aviation can happen when you want to go flying, and (for whatever reason) your plane has some sort of technical fault that prevents you from doing so. The PC-12 has been transformative for me because the plane is so damned reliable, and because the folks at Premiair who maintain it for me in Adelaide are superb as well.

I’ve had so many experiences of frustration with other aircraft in this regard – with a plane letting me down in some respect related to mechanical faults or technical issues – but not with this one. This plane just works.

The signature example of that, for me, was when I flew the new plane from the Pilatus factory in Switzerland to Australia (over the course of 9 flying days). The number of mechanical/technical issues I had, in the process of flying this plane across the planet, was… zero.

It is also a great, great plane in terms of the experience (as a pilot) of doing so. It is an intensely pleasant and rewarding plane to fly. The sound, when starting that turboprop engine, is just wonderful too 🙂

After we finished on the ground in Adelaide, I flew the camera crew and director to Waikerie, in the ‘Riverland’ region of South Australia. We filmed a variety of ground-taxi and takeoff/landing sequences at that airport, running right through into late afternoon and dusk, before returning to Adelaide Airport that evening.

A few days later, I was slated to take some members of my family and the family of some good friends on a holiday together to Hamilton Island. This is a wonderful place for a family holiday – hugely recommended for that! It takes about 4.5 hours to fly direct from Adelaide to Hamilton Island in the PC-12 (hours faster than it can be done commercially).

The Digital Black film crew met us up there, and we filmed a whole lot of sequences.These were both ground shots and also a set of aerial shots – most of which wound up on the cutting room floor 🙂

The sequence that got used from there, though, is lovely – with what seems like a endless procession of people stepping out of the plane at Hamilton Island and on to the tarmac to start their vacation. You can put a lot of people in the plane in great comfort, and everyone you see in that video sequence had indeed flown up with me from Adelaide.

I had an absolute ball doing this film shoot. I hope that comes across in the result.

The best compliment I’ve had about this video is an indirect one – some people who have watched this have said “Great video, shame they used an actor instead of a real pilot”.

That is a real giggle for me – because its definitely me, its my plane, its my personal passion for it – none of it is made up. I really like the plane (and flying it) that much 🙂