Australia Welcomes New Pilatus PC-21 Turboprop Trainers

 - August 30, 2017, 4:03 PM
The Republic of Singapore Air Force also trains pilots in Australia using PC-21s. (Photo: Commonwealth of Australia)

Australia has officially welcomed its new Pilatus PC-21 turboprop trainers into service, marking a key milestone in the Australian Defence Force effort to overhaul its pilot training program.

The AIR 5428 Pilot Training System Project will deliver an integrated pilot training program to the Australian Defence Force, tailored for all future pilots of the RAAF, Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Army.

Under a $946.8 million contract signed in 2015, Lockheed Martin is providing overall project management for the pilot training system and delivering a family of integrated, ground-based training technologies. Pilatus Aircraft will supply 49 PC-21 turboprop trainers and through-life engineering and airworthiness support, replacing PC-9/A and CT-4B trainers. There are currently 10 PC-21s in Australia; the first two aircraft arrived in March.

In a welcome ceremony August 11 at Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Base East Sale, Defence Minister Marise Payne said the new pilot training system using PC-21s “is a significant leap forward and will train more of our people faster and to a higher standard than our current system.” Vince Di Petro, Lockheed Martin chief executive for Australia, said the training system “marks the beginning of training for Australia’s fifth-generation air capability.”

The acquisition and services contracts call for Lockheed Martin Australia to deliver seven flight simulators, a modern learning environment for students, updated courseware and support for an initial seven-year term.

Basic flying training will eventually be delivered from East Sale with 22 aircraft. Advanced flying training is conducted at RAAF Base Pearce, where the number of Australian pilot graduates will increase from 77 to 105 annually.

In another development involving the PC-21, the defense ministers of Australia and Singapore on August 21 signed a treaty to extend the latter’s flying training program at RAAF Base Pearce for a further 25 years. The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) operates and maintains a Flying Training Institute at Pearce that conducts the nine-month basic wings course for trainee pilots and a Standards Flight that conducts the flying instructors course using 19 PC-21s.

Lockheed Martin is also the systems integrator for the RSAF’s basic wings course, providing aircraft, maintenance, simulators, courseware and ground-based instructors under a 20-year contract signed in 2006.

Singapore maintains several aircraft detachments overseas to make up for the lack of training airspace at home. The detachment at RAAF Pearce started in 1998 with the Aermacchi S-211 before deliveries of the PC-21 started in 2008.

The PC-21 has proved to be a popular training platform with militaries around the world, and has also been ordered by Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and the UAE.