Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies has welcomed the arrival of the Royal Australian Air Force’s first two Pilatus PC-21 training aircraft that form part of the AIR 5428 pilot training system project.
“We will be formally introducing the PC-21 into service in coming months, but it is grand to be here at Avalon to welcome these first two aircraft,” CAF said, speaking at the Avalon Airshow on Friday. “It really is the start point of us generating what will become a fifth-generation Air Force.”
Minister for Defence Personnel Dan Tehan and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester were also on hand to welcome the new aircraft.
The PC-21 is due to start flying operations at RAAF Base East Sale in the middle of this year, while the first pilot course is scheduled to start in early 2019.
The epic delivery flight to East Sale of A54-001 and A54-002 started at Buochs in Switzerland and took 39 hours and 5 minutes, spanning 16 legs over 10 days of flying, with one rest day.
Stops were made at Bari, Heraklion, Luxor, Riyadh, Fujairah, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Chittagong, Bangkok, Singapore, Bali, Kupang, Darwin, Mount Isa and Brisbane.
The aircraft were flown with two extra fuel tanks under the wings that almost doubled the amount of fuel that could be carried.
Martin Mendel, instructor and production test pilot at Pilatus, who flew A54-002 to Australia, said he had never before been involved in such a delivery flight.
“This was the longest I have done; next closest was a PC-7 MkII to Malaysia,” Mendel told Australian Defence Business Review. “This is much more pleasant because we have the autopilot…and the seat is more comfortable.”