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Swiss Efficiency
Pilatus looks to further strengthen its foothold in India

STANS, SWITZERLAND | Swiss based aircraft manufacturer, Pilatus, has a long history and built its reputation as a manufacturer of high quality military turbo-prop trainers and long serving passenger aircraft such as the PC-6 and highly successful PC-12. FORCE was invited by Pilatus for a first-hand look at their facilities in Stans, Switzerland where Indian Air Force (IAF) PC-7 MKII basic trainer aircraft (BTA) are made. Our readers will remember that FORCE had been the first Indian defence magazine to visit the Air Force Academy (AFA) at Dundigal, last year for an in-depth look at IAF’s latest basic trainer.

Pilatus signed a contract with the IAF in May 2012 for delivery of 75 PC-7 MkII turboprop aircraft, together with an integrated ground-based training system and a comprehensive logistics support package. The IAF’s first PC-7 MkII took off from Stans for its maiden flight on 9 October 2012, just 138 days after the order was signed with the IAF. The contract also contained an option clause for extending the scope of this contract within three years. More than 50 trainers have been delivered by Pilatus to the IAF. As of August last year, the fleet of approximately 16 trainers had already logged 3,000 flight hours with almost 5,600 landings and serviceability for the PC-7 MK-II fleet was at 81 per cent. As of October this year, with 48 aircraft, IAF pilots had exceeded a total of 22,000 flying hours and safely landed over 42,000 times! The IAF will use the final aircraft delivered by Pilatus from the 75 aircraft order to train Qualified Flight Instructors (QFIs) at Air Force Station (AFS) Tambaram. Aircraft nos 61 to 75 (the last 15) will be delivered directly to Air Force Station Tambaram.

At its production facility in Stans, manufacture of IAF PC-7 MkII’s progresses alongside PC-21 advanced trainers for the Royal Saudi Arabian Air Force and Qatar Emiri Air Force. The Saudi air force ordered 55 PC-21s while Qatar had placed orders for 24. The production line is humming with activity and jam packed. The other end of the line is occupied by the manufacturing line for the strong selling PC-12 NG. Once an aircraft is completed, it is taken out for a series of ground tests before taking to the air. The IAF PC-7 MkIIs are flown to India over a series of hops, flying through Muscat to Ahmedabad and then Dundigal. The aircraft are equipped with external ferry tanks and flown by a single pilot for these ferry flights. The aircraft leaves Stans on Monday and arrives in India on Saturday, the same week. Once the aircraft arrives, a Joint Receipt Inspection (JRI) is conducted, which takes a few days. Within a week of the aircraft having arrived in India, its Swiss civil registration is de-registered and it receives its IAF markings.

The decision on the procurement of an additional 106 trainers under the ‘Make & Buy (Indian) category was deferred again in the last meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by the new defence minister Manohar Parrikar. The procurement of these additional trainers will now be delayed as it would be difficult to deliver all 106 trainer by 2021 as envisaged in the RFI. The procurement of additional trainers consisted of a ‘Buy’ portion where a certain number of trainers would be acquired directly from the manufacturer and a ‘Make’ portion, where the trainers be manufactured under license. The aircraft and associated equipment for this procurement are required to be supplied in the same configuration/specifications and scale as was contracted earlier for the first 75 aircraft. Also, part of the requirement is simulators and training devices. As per the RFI, “It is desired that suitable Indian vendors (including an Indian company forming Joint Venture/establishing production arrangement with the aircraft OEM) propose ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’ scheme to supply certain number of PC-7 Mk II aircraft in flyaway condition along with requisite associated equipment as the ‘Buy’ portion followed by licensed production/indigenous manufacture in India under the ‘Make’ portion.”

Pilatus has tasted sales success with both the PC-7 MKII basic trainers and the PC-12 passenger aircraft that has been hugely popular in north America

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