Pilatus rolled out the 100th PC-21 last month, an aircraft that the company said was coincidentally the 1,000th turboprop trainer that it has completed. The Swiss company began production of the PC-7 in the late 1970s, followed by the more powerful PC-9, and now the enhanced PC-7 Mk II.
The landmark PC-21 is destined for the Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF), which has ordered 55. Pilatus has conducted training courses for the RSAF instructors, who are now preparing for their first student courses. The RSAF previously acquired 50 PC-9s starting in 1986, in a package arranged by BAE Systems. The PC-21s are similarly part of a larger training deal arranged by BAE Systems in 2012.
PC-21s are also serving the air forces of Singapore (19); Switzerland (8) and the UAE (25), while Qatar has ordered 24. Pilatus claims that the PC-21 offers “unparalleled performance and ease of maintenance” for a turboprop aircraft. It is usually offered along with simulators and computer-based training, either directly by Pilatus or with a training-system partner. For instance, Pilatus is teamed with Lockheed Martin to offer the PC-21 as a replacement for the Royal Australian Air Force’s PC-9As. A decision is imminent.
Ironically, BAE Systems is on the competing team for the new RAAF turbo-trainer. It is offering the Beechcraft T-6C Texan in partnership with CAE. But in the UK, BAE Systems did offer the PC-21 to meet the Basic Flying Training portion of the UK’s new Military Flying Training System (MFTS). However, the MFTS service provider chose the T-6C instead. Also ironically, Pilatus receives royalties from the sale of T-6 Texans, since the type was originally a co-operative development with Beechcraft, whichsuccessfully met the U.S. Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) requirement.