The Indian Air Force (IAF) is gearing up to induct the first batch of Swiss Pilatus (PC-7 Mk II) basic trainer aircraft (BTA) in Bangalore. Scheduled to arrive in January 2013, the Pilatus turbo-prop aircraft will be used for Stage-1 training of rookie pilots. In the first lot, the IAF will receive six aircraft out of the total 75, as per the Rs 3,000-crore-deal inked in May 2012. Thereafter, every five planes will make touchdown every two months.
Air Marshal Rajinder Singh, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, IAF Training Command (TC), Bangalore, told Express that a team of pilots, technicians and ground crew are heading to Switzerland. “The three-months training will start in October and they would impart training to IAF officers after returning. We have begun setting-up infrastructure to house the aircraft. The hangars and other ground installations have been inspected and certified by a team from Switzerland,” Rajinder Singh said.
With Pilatus joining the fleet, the IAF hopes to up the flying hours of cadets from 30 to in excess of 60 hours. Then on, the Stage-II will be on Kirans and Stage-III on British Hawks. “We have not cut down the number of flying hours in training and there is no compromise on quality. A basic Pilatus trainer simulator too would join us soon. We hope to have adequate number of PC-7s by the end of December 2013,” Rajinder Singh, said. Currently, the first two stages of training are done on Kirans.
While the Kirans are set to be phased out by 2015 and the IAF not sure of getting Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL)-built Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) as a replacement, concerns were already hovering around. “Inordinate delay in rolling out IJT will be a problem for the IAF in 2015. In my opinion, to get IJT by 2015 is a near-impossible task and the IAF will have to re-design its basic, intermediate and advance training. If we are up against the wall by then, the training will have to be on PC-7 and Hawks,” says former IAF Chief Air Chief Marshal (retd) Fali Homi Major.
HAL says that the IJT was back on track after the April 2011 mishap. “The second prototype has undertaken few sorties after the modification. We are now preparing for completing the tasks of stall and spin tests, which are major requirements for certification of this class of aircraft,” HAL said in an official communication. “The first two limited series production (LSP) aircraft are also undergoing the installation of the modified control circuits and will join the prototype aircraft soon to enhance the developmental flight activity,” HAL added.