The Spanish Air Force (Ejército del Aire ) will acquire 24 Swiss-produced Pilatus PC-21 single-engine turboprop training aircraft to replace its Casa Aviojet C-101 jet trainers used since 1980, confirming a worldwide trend that sees older jet training aircraft being succeeded by high-performance turboprops. Spain is the third European air force to opt for the Swiss-produced PC-21, the Next Generation Trainer. Pilatus has committed to delivering a total of 24 PC-21s to Spain. Pilatus PC-21 “clearly offered the best cost-quality ratio,” beat the Beechcraft T-6A Texan II and the Embraer Super Tucano to win the order.
The Spanish Ministry of Defence (Ministerio de Defensa) was looking for a new, highly efficient training platform to provide advanced training for Spain’s future military pilots tasked with protecting future generations. After a long and extremely professional evaluation, Pilatus beat several prestigious competitors to win the tender with the PC-21. The contract, which is worth over 205 million euros, was signed yesterday evening with the Spanish Dirección General de Armamento y Material (DGAM). Comprising an integrated training system, the order includes simulators developed and produced by Pilatus, spare parts and logistics support in addition to the PC-21 aircraft.
The Pilatus PC-21 is a turboprop-powered advanced trainer with a stepped tandem cockpit manufactured by Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland. The aircraft features a tandem-seating arrangement (student in-front/instructor behind) in a bird strike-resistant glass canopy with allround vision. The cabin, which is pressurized, is equipped with an On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS), air conditioning, and Martin-Baker CH16C Zero-Zero ejection seats. An anti-g system is also present in order to minimize the effects of high g-forces experienced during tactical training and aerobatic maneuvers. In addition, a full autopilot and civil flight management system are also present.
The PC-21 is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68B turboprop engine of 1,600 shaft horse power, which drives a five-bladed graphite scimitar propeller manufactured by Hartzell; it has been claimed by Pilatus that the PC-21 possesses speed and climb rates previously normally performed only by jet-powered aircraft. It is also fitted with a high-speed profile wing, rated for maneuvers up to 8g, complete with hydraulically-assisted ailerons and spoilers which enable the execution of fighter-like rates of roll and other maneuvers. In order to make the aircraft easy to fly at low speeds, the PC-21 is furnished with a digital power management system and the rudder control system to compensate for airspeed and engine power changes.
For years, people believed that single-engine turboprops would never replace jet trainers. But with defence budgets coming under increasing pressure, air forces are looking for new ways of managing and maintaining their complex systems in mission-ready condition. Seeking to support this change, Pilatus developed performance-related services specifically tailored to the PC-21 Training System. The goal is to ensure an affordable product to match the performance criteria defined by air force customers. That is achieved by providing a highly sophisticated and integrated service package in line with current air force requirements. Prestigious air forces around the world have chosen the cost-effective, highly efficient training platform created by Pilatus. Since 2006, Pilatus has already sold 235 PC-21s to nine air forces – including Singapore, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, France or Australia.