A23 Pilatus PC-9/A
On 16 December 1985, the decision was announced to discontinue the Australian Aircraft Consortium (AAC) A10 Wamira, and instead acquire the Swiss Pilatus PC-9. Some 69 of these advanced trainers would be ordered, but this was reduced to 67 on 10 July 1986 when the contract was signed. The Swiss had proposed that if the RAAF bought the PC-9, Australia would secure 80 percent of the work on the other 81 approved aircraft in the PC-9 production run. This work would primarily be with Hawker de Havilland (HdH), the prime contractor, which had been the driving force of the AAC in the Wamira project. In April 1986, the RAAF decided the A23 prefix allocated to the Wamira would be retained for the PC-9. Also, it was decided to retain the Wamira's conspicuous orange-and-white paint scheme which had been planned by AAC with advice from DSTO's Materials Research Laboratory.
The first PC-9 had been officially rolled out at Stans, Switzerland, on 9 May 1984, having flown two days earlier, and was registered HB-HPA. The RAAF became the first customer to specify the advanced electronic flight information system (EFIS) 'glass' cockpit. The first RAAF aircraft, A23-001, flew on 19 May 1987, followed in June by A23-002. A23-001 was displayed at the 1987 Paris Air Show in June. To enable Swiss civilian pilots to ferry these aircraft to Australia, they were marked as HB-HQA and HB-HQB. The two PC-9's departed Stans for the 20,239 km ferry flight and arrived at Bankstown on 16 October 1987. These aircraft were then accepted by the RAAF in November. They were to have been delivered in July but had been delayed by four months by an electronic fault. Radio transmissions were affecting the fuel flow sensors, shutting down the engine. The sensors were further shielded to overcome the problem.
The remaining 65 aircraft, A23-003 to A23-067, were then built under licence by HdH and designated PC-9/A. Pilatus supplied kits for the first six and major components for the following 11, but from aircraft A23-20, all major components were Australian built. Aerospace Technologies of Australia (ASTA, renamed from GAF in 1987) produced the fuselage and the tailplane, and HdH of Victoria (ex-CAC) built the wings. The Dunlop Aerospace Company was sub-contracted to make the undercarriage, and final assembly and flight testing was done at HdH at Bankstown. Only the engine and the electronics were then imported. The first Australian assembled PC-9/A, A23-003, flew on 14 November 1987 and was accepted by the RAAF on 9 December. Initial deliveries were the two Swiss-built aircraft to Central Flying School on 24 November 1987, to enable instructor training and flying syllabus development.
The RAAF training program had been re-assessed to retain the CT-4 in the ab-initio role and replace the Macchi with the PC-9. Macchi training would then only continue for those students streamed to fighter/strike flying. The RAAF's Aircraft Research and Development Unit (ARDU) also operated two of the early aircraft to certify their entry into RAAF service.
When A23-006 was rolled out of the HdH factory on 21 May 1988, it was painted in the personal blue colour scheme of the Chief of Air Staff. This aircraft was accepted by the RAAF on 27 June and participated in the around-Australia air race in September as part of the Richmond Bicentennial Air Show. Deliveries began in 1989 to No 2 Flying Training School (2FTS) at RAAF Pearce, and late that year the first student pilots commenced PC-9 flying. This enabled the withdrawal of the Macchi from 2FTS in 1991, but this type remained in service at Pearce with No 25 Squadron. Subsequent Macchi fatigue problems saw the PC-9s of 2FTS being borrowed by No 25 Squadron.
During 1990 the Air Force's aerobatic display team, the Roulettes, based at the Central Flying School, converted to the PC-9. Their distinctive all-red aircraft are now a common sight at Australian air shows, and they were introduced internationally at the Singapore Air Show in February 1992.
The final RAAF PC-9/A, A23-067, was accepted by the RAAF in March 1992.
There are also a few PC-9/A aircraft with grey paintwork at RAAF Williamtown, New South Wales, which are used to train Australian Defence Force forward air controllers, who coordinate air support to troops on the ground.
TECHNICAL DATA: Pilatus PC-9/A
Two-seat advanced trainer.
One 950shp Pratt & Whitney PT6A turboprop.
Wing span 10.12 m (33 ft 2 in); length 10.18 m (33 ft 4 in); height 3.26 m (10 ft 8 in).
Empty 1620 kg (3571 lb); max 3210 kg (7077 lb).
Max speed 593 km/h (320 kt); cruising speed 500 km/h (270 kt); rate of climb 1220 m (4000 ft) per min; service ceiling 38,000 ft (11,580 m); range (at 20,000 ft) 1700 km (920 nm).
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