The first prototype made its maiden flight on 4 May 1959 powered by a 254 kW (340 shp) piston engine. The first Turbo Porter, powered by a turboprop, flew in 1961. The Turbo Porter received an engine upgrade in 1963, which increased its power to its present value of 410 kW (550 shp).
The Porter was also manufactured under license by Fairchild Hiller in the United States during the early 1970s for operations during the Vietnam War. It received the designation AU-23A Peacemaker for service with the U.S. Air Force and UV-20 Chiricahua for service with the U.S. Army. The Peacemaker was fitted with a side-firing 20mm XM-197 Gatling cannon, four wing pylons and a centre fuselage station for external ordnance, but proved to be troublesome in service; all aircraft were returned to the U.S. for storage after one year of operations.
The PC-6 is noted for its Short Take-off and Landing (STOL) performance on almost any type of terrain - it can take off within a distance of 640 feet (195 m) and land within a distance of 427 feet (130 m) while carrying a payload of 2,646 lbs (1,200 kg). Thanks to its STOL performance, the PC-6 holds the world record for highest landing by a fixed-wing aircraft, at 18,865 feet (5,750 m), on the Dhaulagiri glacier in Nepal.
Due to these characteristics, they are frequently used to access short grass mountaintop airstrips in the highlands of Papua Province (Indonesia) and Papua New Guinea.
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