Australian Airforce Flight Training
Investigations into finding a new RAAF trainer to fill basic and advanced roles and to replace both the Macchi MB-326 jet and NZAI CT-4 Airtrainer go back as far as 1979.
Six years later, in December 1985, the Pilatus PC-9 turboprop was selected after a complicated evaluation period during which the Embraer Tucano, Norman Turbo Firecracker, Pilatus PC-7, developed CT-4 variants, locally designed AAC Wamira and other types were examined.
The Wamira got as far as a prototype being largely completed, but it was cancelled in December 1985 when the PC-9 was selected, a victim of changing requirements as much as anything else. Also changed was the idea of the PC-9 replacing both the CT-4 and the MB-326; for the moment the RAAF's students would start on the CT-4, earn their wings on the PC-9 and go onto advanced 'fighter lead in' training (if appropriate) on the Macchi.
The initial order was for 69 PC-9s, although this was quickly reduced to 67. The RAAF version was designated PC-9/A.
The first two aircraft (A23-001 and 002) were fully imported from Switzerland. The next six (A23-003 to 008) were assembled in Australia from imported components. Major components for a further 11 (A23-009 to 019) were supplied by Pilatus and the final 48 aircraft (A23-020 to 067) can be regarded as having been built in Australia.
Aerospace Technologies of Australia (formerly GAF) supplied the fuselages and tailplane, Hawker de Havilland Victoria (ex CAC) the wings, Dunlop Aerospace the undercarriage and HDH at Bankstown was responsible for final assembly and flight testing.
After being displayed at the 1987 Paris Air Show, A23-001 (along with 002) arrived in Australia in October 1987 and was handed over to the RAAF the following month. A23-003 first flew in November 1987 and production was initially slow (only four delivered in 1988) but built up in 1989.
The last RAAF PC-9 was delivered in March 1992.
The main user of the PC-9 is 2 Flying Training School at Pearce WA, the first courses on the aircraft beginning in 1989. The PC-9 is also used by the Central Flying School and the Roulettes aerobatic team since 1990. A23-006 was delivered in the colour scheme of the office of the RAAF Chief of Air Staff.
Compared to the Macchi it replaces, the PC-9 offers a lower maximum speed but a greater rate of climb, better maneuverability, lower operating costs and improved efficiency. As an example, the PC-9 can perform four spins per training sortie as against only one in the Macchi, a function of the PC-S's greater rate of climb and the fact its lower limit for that exercise is 6,000 feet compared to the Macchi's 12,000 feet.
PC-9s began to replace Winjeels in the Forward Air Control training role at Williamtown NSW from April 1994.
PILATUS PC-9 Specifications:
Type: Two seat trainer:
Powerplant: One 950shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-62 turboprop.
Dimensions: Wing span 33ft 2.5in (10.12m);
Length: 33ft 5in (10.17m);
Height: 10ft 8in (3.26m).
Weights: Empty 3, 7501b (1,701kg);
Loaded (aerobatic) 4,9601b (2, 250kg);
Max load: 7,055lb (3, 200kg).
Performance: Max speed 300kt (556km/h);
Initial climb: (aerobatic weight) 4,090ft (1,247m)/min;
Service Ceiling: 38,000ft (11,582m);
Max Range: 887nm (1,642km).
Reference: Military Aircraft of Australia by Stewart Wilson.
ISBN: 1 875671 08 0
Published by Aerospace Publications PTY Ltd, 1994.
Pilatus PC-9 Fact Sheet "THE PC-9" (PDF)