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PC-7 Turbo Trainer

The Pilatus PC-7 has been flying since 1966, when the prototype first took off. However, after a crash the project was halted. In 1973 the project was started again. A different P-3 was acquired from the Swiss Air Force, and underwent some heavy modifications.

This two-seater multi-purpose training aircraft manufactured by Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland is something of a late bloomer. The prototype first took to the skies in 1966, but customer interest was modest, and it took over a decade for the aircraft to enter into mass production. The turbo-prop PC-7 is based on the earlier piston-engined Pilatus P-3, a two seat basic trainer developed for the Swiss Air Force to replace North American T-6s. A total of 78 P-3s was built for Switzerland and Brazil in the mid 1950s. The P-3 was powered by a 195kW (260hp) Lycoming GO-435 flat six piston engine. All have been retired. The first PC-7s were converted P-3s and the first such prototype flew on April 12 1966. However, after a crash the project was halted.

In 1973 the project was started again. A different P-3 was acquired from the Swiss Air Force, and underwent some heavy modifications. A series of P-3-05 preproduction aircraft were built, however it was not until August 18 1978 that the first production aircraft flew. In that time the PC-7 underwent significant structural redesign (in conjunction with Dornier) to arrive at its current production form. It was at this point that word of the PC-7's many talents - ranging from basic training, instrument flying and aerobatics to night flying and tactical flying - quickly spread.

The Turbo Trainer went into production in 1977. Deliveries of production aircraft (to Myanmar, then Burma) began in December 1978. Several hundred of this type have been built for many countries. The PC-7 is a two-seater "Turbo Trainer" utilized in the training of modern military pilots. As an initial training aircraft, the PC-7 introduces trainees to aerobatic flight and instrument navigation (IFR). Today the PC-7 is counted as one of the most advanced aircraft world-wide within the category of aircraft trainers.

Since its introduction in 1994, the PC-7 MkII has come with an exceptional standard of equipment, performance, and cost-effectiveness for this class of training aircraft. The PC-7 Mark II is a hybrid aircraft, in which a PC-9 airframe has been mated with a smaller PC-7 engine to lower procurement, flying and maintenance costs.

Offering a reliable and economic training platform, the docile behaviour of the PC-7 MkII in the hands of a beginner delivers a confidence-building environment for inexperienced cadets. With its highly cost-efficient Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25C engine, it provides the lowest engine operating costs of all turboprop trainer aircraft. The use of airframe and avionic systems common with the PC-9 M means owners and operators benefit from the synergies of a combined infrastructure established at Pilatus to support both aircraft types. With its modern cockpit, matching performance and exceptional handling, the PC-7 MkII is an ideal training aircraft for air forces around the world.

The PC-7 MkII is a training aircraft powered by a 700 shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A-25C turboprop engine with a Hartzell four-blade aluminium propeller. The de-rating of the engine from 850shp ensures low direct operating costs and a long engine life. The performance of the PC-7 MkII is docile enough for a beginner, but with sufficient power for more demanding basic phases. The aircraft utilises conventional systems that are reliable, easy to operate and maintain. Access to the engine and systems is excellent. A hot section inspection can be carried out without engine removal, keeping maintenance and overhaul costs to a minimum.

The Royal Netherlands Air Force has 13 Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainers in service. These two-seater training aircraft are stationed at Woensdrecht Air Base. That is the location for the Royal Military Aviation School (KMSL), where pilot trainees attend the Basic Military Pilot Training (EMVO) programme. After successfully completing the EMVO, candidate air force pilots then receive specialist training to become a fighter pilot or helicopter pilot. Since 1995, the air force has been having Pilatus PC-7 Turbo Trainers participate in national and international aviation events during the summer months. Since 2007, the PC-7 colour scheme has been black with a yellow stripe. That colour scheme was chosen for safety reasons. Studies showed that black stands out better against the sky than the previous colour, which was yellow with red, making it more visible.

Since 1982 these aircraft have been operated by the Swiss Air Force pilot school. In October 2006, the two first PC-7 aircraft with the converted new cockpit (NCPC-7) were delivered to the air force. On 30 September 2003, armasuisse flew the prototype for the first time. A glass cockpit, GPS, autopilot, a second VHF radio system as well as a new paint scheme are the most prominent alterations. This upgrade provides a significantly extended range of operations. The aircraft can now be deployed in accordance with civilian IFR procedures and used for flight training according to JAR FCL. On 29 February 2008, altogether eighteen NCPC-7 aircraft were officially handed over to the air force in a small ceremony. The simulator built by RUAG Aerospace was operational in spring of 2008.

Since 2007, flying aptitude (selection) and basic flight training at the air force pilot school have been carried out exclusively with the NCPC-7 in Locarno. IFR training is supported by Instr Fl Sqn 14. In addition, some aircraft of the fleet are flown by the PC-7 Team and deployed for special air policing missions. In 2007, for the first time, examinations for civilian IR revalidation were carried out. In the same year, pilots engaged at the air force pilot school as flight instructors, pilots of Instr Flt Sqn 14 as well as members of the PC-7 TEAM External website. Content opens in new window were re-trained to fly the NCPC-7. This upgrade provides a further step towards modern pilot training.

In addition to the 28 NCPC-7 aircraft that had all been upgraded to the same technical level, there remained until autumn 2009 but five ’old’ PC-7 planes in operation for the air force, which, however, for various reasons were no longer converted. Four aircraft remained in the air force until the end of 2009, in February 2010 two (A-909 and A-910) and approximately by the end of the first quarter of 2010 all the ’old’ ones had left and as far as the air force was concerned, were liquidated or could be offered for sale.

Built in many versions for military operators in more than 18 Countries. Swiss Air Force Type PC-7. Licence production by ATLAS/DENEL, South Africa. Improved development PC-7 MK II Astra with 4 blade propeller for South African Air Force since 1992. Production of upgrade kits to MK II Astra standard since 1994.

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Page last modified: 07-06-2013 18:37:19 ZULU