The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has marked the first ‘in-service’ flight of the Pilatus PC-21 that the country acquired under the Project AIR 5428 pilot training programme. A symbolic first in-service flight of the twin-seat turboprop trainer, made by the chief of RAAF, Air Marshal Leo Davies, was announced by service-provider Lockheed Martin on 15 August.
The announcement of the commencement of ‘in-service’ flying of the PC-21 came 13 months after the first of 49 PC-21 aircraft made its maiden flight from Pilatus’ production facility in Stans, Switzerland, on 21 July 2016. This aircraft was transferred to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) at RAAF Base East Sale, Victoria, in June, with following aircraft to be delivered to RAAF Base East Sale and RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia.
Lockheed Martin was awarded an initial AUD1.2 billion (USD950 million), seven-year contract to manage the Project AIR 5428 Pilot Training System programme in December 2015. The programme is due to begin in 2019, and will run through to 2044.
Project AIR 5428 will provide the ADF with a new training system to take pilots from flight screening through basic and advanced flying training. Student pilots from the RAAF, the Royal Australian Navy, and the Australian Army will be tutored by the company and its partners Pilatus Aircraft and Hawker Pacific using the PC-21s, as well as seven simulators. The ADF aims to train up to 105 pilots per year.
The Pilatus PC-21 is a single-turboprop, low-wing swept monoplane advanced trainer with a stepped tandem cockpit manufactured by Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland.