Swiss manufacturer Pilatus has little trouble selling its training aircraft to the world’s air forces despite operating in a shrinking market short on appeal for other constructors. A success that owes much to the technology it has developed over the years.
Based in Stans, canton Nidwalden, Pilatus saw its sales jump substantially in 2011. It took in SFr781 million ($832 million) last year, up 14 per cent on 2010.
The future looks bright too. Since the beginning of the year, the company has received orders for 154 aircraft, including 79 for the PC-21 trainer.
According to British pilot Peter Collins, Pilatus, and specifically the PC-21, is so successful because it allows air forces facing budgetary restrictions to produce pilots specialised in flight and attack techniques at a lower cost in the least possible time.
“What may be needed in future is a trainer that is docile in handling and yet with such high performance and in-built sophisticated simulated training systems that it can replace three or four types and cover a complete air force’s generic training programme,” he wrote in online magazine Flightglobal.
Collins, who tested the PC-21 himself, says it fulfills those criteria.
“The Swiss air force has shown that PC-21 can be used during the entire training process,” says Max Ungricht, editor-in-chief of Swiss magazine Cockpit Aero. “It’s something that didn’t exist before.”
“We always had two or three types of aircraft between the initial flight training and the fighter jet. That costs more and takes longer, so the Pilatus system has a big advantage.”
Two major characteristics help the PC-21 fulfill the latest requirements. One is that despite being a turboprop aircraft, it flies like a jet.
Olivier Pauchard, swissinfo.ch
(Translated from French by Scott Capper)