February 6, 2017:
One of the more imaginative and effective new flight trainer aircraft comes from a nation that has not fought a war for over two centuries. The aircraft in question is the PC-21 and at the end of 2016 the Swiss manufacturer sold 21 more of these trainers. Most of the latest batch were ordered by neighbor France. What makes this sale even more impressive was that the PC-21 was competing with two jet powered trainers (M345 and L39). The Pilatus PC-21 is a very popular and effective trainer aircraft for pilots who are about to move up to jet fighters and that usually means a jet powered trainer. The PC-21 is unique because it was created to provide a less expensive (to buy and operate) trainer for this Thus the PC-21 has a cockpit similar to a jet fighter and can perform many of the same maneuvers, but somewhat slower and for a lot less cost per flight hour. The propeller driven PC-21 has a pressurized cockpit with a bubble canopy and a modern "glass" cockpit. The aircraft can pull 8 Gs while maneuvering. The instructors sits behind, and slightly higher, the trainee in the two seat cockpit. The PC-21 cruises at 660 kilometers an hour and has a max speed of 720 kilometers an hour. Max altitude is 12,000 meters (38,000 feet). For training, or use as a light bomber, the PC-21 has five hard-points, enabling the aircraft to carry a ton of bombs and missiles. Introduced in 2008, more than 150 PC-21s have been delivered or are on order and sales keep increasing as more air forces hear about how successfully and inexpensively the PC-21 does the job. Many major nations still prefer to use locally made trainers but these nations are losing a growing number of trainer export sales to tiny Switzerland.