The UK’s world-renowned Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS) is undergoing a major equipment overhaul of its core fleet. New aircraft have been ordered as part of a 2016 contract with the Ministry of Defence for QinetiQ to continue to manage the school through to 2028. Three new types have been selected, and deliveries are nearing completion.
First to arrive were two Grob G120TPs, the type beginning operations from MOD Boscombe Down in November 2017. The school is in the process of receiving four Airbus Helicopters H125s that have been modified with telemetry reporting equipment, dedicated communications, and three-axis autopilot. The first was handed over in March this year.
Most recently, the first of two fully instrumented Pilatus PC-21s was formally handed over to the ETPS on July 17, having been flying in Switzerland since January on instructor training. The second is due in the fourth quarter. The school’s fleet of ex-German Alpha Jets, which was acquired in 1999, has been retired.
All three new types operate as part of the newly established QinetiQ Civil Flying Organization, which permits them to fly under civil registrations and independent of other military organizations. They will be used alongside other types as the mainstay of the 2019 fixed- and rotary-wing courses.