First Look: Komatsu PC290LC

Oct. 19, 2010

In order to fully grasp the importance that we place upon the launch of the Komatsu PC290LC (that is also available in NLC for those that are narrow undercarriage inclined), you need to understand the geography and logistics involved in bringing this story to you.

In order to fully grasp the importance that we place upon the launch of the Komatsu PC290LC (that is also available in NLC for those that are narrow undercarriage inclined), you need to understand the geography and logistics involved in bringing this story to you.

The PC290LC is produced at Komatsu UK’s Birtley factory near Newcastle in the North East on England, while I am based just outside London, roughly 350 miles to the South.   In order to get to this machine, I would need to leave home shortly before I went to bed the previous evening and drive 95 percent of the way to Scotland, to crawl over the latest offering from the Japanese equipment giant.   But such is our dedication to duty, that’s exactly what we did.   And - despite arriving bleary-eyed some five hours after I set off, my spine a perfect replica of my car seat - the machine, which was launched amidst Icelandic volcanic ash clouds at the Bauma 2010 exhibition in Germany earlier this year, made the trip worthwhile.

From the Ground Up

For one thing, this is not a standard excavator on steroids.   In fact, a tour of the KUK factory - courtesy of Vince Porteous; a man who has overseen the production of a good many of the 54,000 excavators that have rolled off the Birtley production line in the past 23 years and who surely bleeds Komatsu yellow – shows that the PC290LC is actually built on the same production line as its standard excavator cousin but is transferred to a parallel build area to have the High Reach Work Equipment installed.  And while it shares a good many features, including the 149 kW Komatsu diesel engine and transmission, with its digger spec brethren, the PC290LC is a demolition machine from its heavy-duty undercarriage upwards.   Weighing in at 40 tonnes with a 3.0 tonne tool that it can carry to a 18.4 metre pin height, the PC290LC comes fully-loaded with boom quick connection system for fast switching of front-end equipment; additional counterweight; and a tilting Level 2 FOPS-guarded cab that is protected by a hinged front guard that can be swung open to allow the windscreen to be cleaned more effectively.   The front and roof window are both laminated glass to provide the operator the appropriate protection from falling debris. Roof window wash wiper, a rear-view camera, boom angle warning system and a travel alarm complete an impressive as-standard equipment package.

First-Time Buyers

Although Komatsu UK admits that it has yet to sell a PC290LC in its country of origin, machines are already plying their trade in Germany, Italy and Switzerland.   Interestingly, UK product manager Michael Atkinson reports that around three-quarters of the machines sold so far have been to first-time high reach machine buyers.   “The PC290LC and NLC are an ideal entry-level high reach machine,” he says.   “It is perfect for most medium high reach duties and, when there is no high reach work to be done, the high reach boom can be switched for a standard digging arm for standard excavator duties in a matter of minutes, helping to ensure the best possible utilisation levels.”The PC290 will also appeal to contractors wanting to compliment their existing fleet of demolition excavators with a machine for medium sized projects.

Quick Change Act

Ah yes, the front-end changeover; the rocks upon which the hopes and aspirations of many high reach manufacturers have been dashed over the years.   According to Michael Atkinson, his two-man engineering team – known affectionately as “The Twins” – had been practising their changeover routine in advance of my visit and had managed to switch from standard excavator to high reach ready in roughly 13 minutes.   Such idle boasts might be fine for other publications but not for us.   In fact, we called up the stopwatch feature on the trusty iPhone and asked The Twins to prove it.   Just under 12 minutes later, the standard boom was resting in its cradle and the PC290LC’s high reach boom and three tonne tool were pointing defiantly at an almost uniquely blue North East of England sky.

But my trademark cynicism refused to be defeated; and I called upon my secret weapon.   John Thompson Jr of leading local demolition specialist Thomsons of Prudhoe had very kindly loaned us a member of his team, Andre Aymard, who has spent the past 14 years behind the levers of high reach excavators of all shapes, sizes and configurations.   And we asked Andre to give us his initial take on the Komatsu PC290LC.

Komatsu PC290LC – First Impressions

“...the changeover of equipment was very impressive, and very fast.   That would save a lot of time on site.   The rotation of the jaws is very quick.   The machine feels well-balanced and the controls are extremely responsive.   There’s plenty of room in the cab.   I have always liked the Japanese-style cab anyway.   They’re solidly built and they don’t rattle around.   Overall, this looks a really good machine...”

So there you have it.   Komatsu have produced a first-class, entry-level, high reach excavator that is well-suited to inner city applications and that can change front end equipment faster than a cornered politician can change his political stance.  

And my own lasting impression?   Newcastle is a REALLYlong way away.

Komatsu PC290LC – Spec Check


Komatsu SAA6D107E-1

Engine Power (kW)


Max. pin height (metres)


Tool weight (kg)


Operating weight (tonnes)

33.98 to 41.01

About the Author

Mark Anthony

Mark is editor of Demolition & Dismantling, the magazine of the UK’s National Federation of Demolition Contractors, and was recently appointed European Editor of the Swedish-based magazine, Professional Demolition International. Mark has been in construction journalism for 25 years, writing Contract Journal, Plant Managers Journal, International Construction, and Demolition Engineer.

Mark is the founder of the industry news aggregation website and blog,, and has been appointed webmaster for the National Federation of Demolition Contractors' website,