Swiss Efficiency

Pilatus looks to further strengthen its foothold in India

Atul Chandra

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 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
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

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.”

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

Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) and Pilatus had launched an offset project to establish an electrical harness manufacturing capability for the production of certain aircraft electrical cable looms at BEL’s Bangalore Complex. The two companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on offsets related to BTA requirement for the IAF in 2010. This would enable BEL to manufacture electrical harnesses for the global Pilatus supply chain. According to Pilatus the progress with BEL has been excellent, with all milestones being achieved and full production of wiring looms now underway. These are being manufactured by BEL for Pilatus for a multitude of products. “We are now looking at the future as to where we can extend the range of products that we have manufactured by BEL. We expect this to be a very long term association not just for the duration of this programme but also in the long term as BEL is now embedded as part of our extended supply chain,” says Pilatus.

Pilatus is also continuing to move forward to finalise a negotiated position with HAL on the contract element to establish a Maintenance Transfer of Technology (MToT) capability. In discharging its responsibility of establishing a defined MToT capability, Pilatus is establishing a unique set of terms and conditions to take into account the legal and commercial requirements of the more than 28 individual companies from their world-wide supply chain network. Efforts are on to create a single contract baseline across the whole range of suppliers the company is working with in each country affected, as this single submission is mandated by the structure required by the Government of India (GoI) to allow Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to present a seamless offer with a single set of terms and conditions to the IAF. The commercial terms and conditions are in the final stages of completion and Pilatus is working diligently towards achieving an acceptable outcome for the GoI and IAF.

A PC-7 MKII at Air Force Academy Dundigal near Hyderabad
A PC-7 MKII at Air Force Academy Dundigal near Hyderabad

 

Pilatus PC-7 MkII History

The PC-7 MkII aircraft was born in answer to the South African Air Force (SAAF) user requirement in 1993 for an ab-initio trainer aircraft. The trainer had to be an existing flying platform with tandem seating and equipped with ejection seats, suitable for ab-initio pilot training and with aerobatic flying capabilities. In order to comply exactly with this user requirement, Pilatus had to ensure that it could match the stringent requirements against their existing products at that point in time. The PC-7 fell short of the SAAF requirement since it was not equipped with ejection seats and the PC-9 which was equipped with ejection seats, was more suited as an advanced trainer due to its powerful engine.

The perfect fit then, was a combination of the two aircraft! A PC-9 airframe with ejection seats, but equipped with a down-rated 700 shp Pratt & Whitney engine (PT6A-25C). Thus was the PC-7 MkII born! The PC-7 MkII perfectly suited the SAAF’s ab-initio flying training requirements and was the Pilatus answer to the customer specific user requirement statement. The PC-7 MkII won over seven other competitors after a gruelling evaluation process. The SAAF operated this aircraft under the name of the Pilatus ASTRA since the avionics system was indigenous. Due to obsolescence of avionic components, the avionics suite was replaced by Pilatus and the aircraft has been renamed to its original PC-7 MkII name. The first two upgraded Pilatus PC-7 MkII training aircraft were handed over to the SAAF in 2010 and deliveries were to have been completed last year.

Till date, the SAAF has flown more than 160,000 flying hours over the last two decades and plans to operate this aircraft for many more years. Along with the SAAF, other operators of the PC-7 MkII are the Royal Malaysian Air Force, Royal Brunei Air Force, and Botswana Defence Force (totalling almost 90 aircraft). With its order for 75 aircraft and a further 37 (as options), the IAF will be the largest operator of the PC-7 MkII trainer. The PC-7 MkII and the PC-9 M, which share the same airframe and avionics collectively known as the Modular Trainer, are currently in successful operation with 20 air forces around the world.