The Pilatus PC-21 is a turboprop-powered tandem advanced trainer manufactured by Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland. A key aim for the PC-21 was to allow jet aircraft pilots to perform the majority of their training using the type before converting to jet-powered types, allowing operators to make substantial savings. In November 1997, Pilatus flew a modified PC-7 Mk.II in order to test improvements for a prospective next generation turboprop trainer. As a result of these tests, Pilatus elected to fund the development of a new training system in November 1998; development of the new trainer, designated as the PC-21, formally started in January 1999. The PC-21 would be developed and certified as a completely new training system, aimed at meeting future military customers’ specifications in terms of capability and life-cycle costs for the next three decades.
The aircraft features a tandem-seating arrangement 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. The flight controls, which are fully balanced and harmonized, are optimized for ease of operation and overall effectiveness. Pilots are able to spend a greater amount of time concentrating on the aircraft’s external situation and upon mission data inputs due to an ergonomic design approach, ease-of-use controls, and clear visual/system data displays. 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.
Systems integration is at the heart of the PC-21 cockpit philosophy. A key feature of the PC-21 is the embedded simulation and training suite, which provides cross-platform cockpit emulation, weapons simulation, stores management system, simulated radar and electronic warfare, a tactical situation display, and data link functionality. The integrated mission computer is of an open architecture, allowing for third-party modifications and upgrades to take place; software can also be customized to conform to customer preferences. Key to this is the Mission Support System (MSS), which comprises the Mission Planning System (MPS) and Mission Debriefing System (MBS); data can be loaded and unloaded from these, which is compatible with ground-based stations for pre-flight configuration or post-mission analysis.
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, crucial to the advanced trainer role, the PC-21 is furnished with a digital power management system and the rudder control system is equipped with an automatic yaw compensator/suppression system to compensate for airspeed and engine power changes.