Pilatus PC-7 Mk II | 05 Dec 2023

Source: IE

Why in News?

Two Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots were killed after their Pilatus PC-7 Mk II trainer aircraft crashed during a routine training sortie from the Air Force Academy at Dundigal, Telangana which marks the first crash involving the aircraft in nearly a decade.

What is Pilatus PC-7 Mk II Trainer Aircraft ?

  • Trainer Aircraft:
    • Trainer aircraft are specialized planes meant for training pilots and aircrews. Since modern military planes are complex and challenging for new pilots, trainers serve as a foundational step.
    • These aircraft are simpler, slower, and more forgiving, helping rookies learn basic skills. They are also cost-effective, allowing air forces to purchase them in large quantities for cadet training.
  • Types of Trainer Aircraft with IAF:
    • The IAF currently operates 75 Pilatus PC-7 Mk II aircraft, which are used for basic training in the first stage of a cadet's flight training.
    • After basic training, cadets progress to the HAL Kiran, an intermediate jet-powered trainer, and then to the BAE Hawk, a British advanced trainer.
  • Features of Pilatus Aircraft:
    • The PC-7 is a turbo-prop aircraft with tandem seating, introduced in the 1990s as an upgraded version of the original model from the 1970s.
    • Powered by a Pratt & Whitney engine, it has a maximum speed of 412 km/h, can reach over 10,000 m in height, and has a range of 1,200 km without external tanks, providing slightly over 4 hours of flying time.
  • IAF’s Need of PC-7 Mk-II:
    • The IAF procured 75 of these aircraft from Pilatus Aircraft Ltd (an aerospace manufacturer located in Stans, Switzerland ) under a contract signed in 2012, to meet the critical shortage of trainer aircraft urgently needed to carry out the basic flying training for its pilots.
    • The shortage emerged after the indigenously developed HPT-32 aircraft were grounded in 2010, after fatal crashes which killed multiple IAF pilots.
  • Replacing PC-7 Mk II:
    • Defence Ministry signed a contract with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to procure 70 HTT-40 for replacing PC-7.
    • Designed indigenously, the HTT-40 is a basic trainer aircraft powered by a four-bladed turbo-prop engine (PC-7 is three-bladed).
      • The aircraft will have an air-conditioned cockpit, modern avionics, hot refuelling, and zero-zero ejection seats.