QinetiQ has placed an order with Pilatus for two PC-21 aircraft, marking the first step in its modernisation of the Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS) aircraft fleet.
The contract, won by Pilatus Aircraft Ltd in competition, is the first awarded by QinetiQ in delivering its programme to modernise training for test pilots and aircrew. The programme is part of a £1bn deal with the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), announced on 2 December 2016, under which QinetiQ and MoD have agreed to invest £85m in the school to reduce operating costs and enhance its capabilities to drive future growth.
The two PC-21 turboprop aircraft will be based at MOD Boscombe Down, Salisbury, UK, where they will carry out duties currently supported by ETPS Hawks and Alpha Jets. Students flying the PC-21 will be taught flight test techniques by ETPS instructors, including assessment of aircraft performance, handling and systems such as advanced cockpit displays and simulated weapons.
The PC-21 was selected for its suitability for training civil and military aircrew and engineers in the evaluation techniques necessary to qualify as test pilots and flight test engineers. The PC-21 will provide this capability at a significantly lower operating cost than competing options.
Steve Wadey, QinetiQ CEO, said: “Under the recent £1bn contract amendment with the MOD, we made a commitment to reducing cost and modernising training for test pilots and aircrew. The purchase of these aircraft shows we are getting straight to work in delivering on our promises. The PC-21 and subsequent introductions to the ETPS fleet will further cement the school’s position as a world leader in military test aircrew training, and guarantee that it continues to meet customers’ needs long into the future. A revised syllabus will also support the training of test pilots for civil aircraft, creating opportunities for growth into new markets.”
Graduates from ETPS often go on to test aircraft such as the F35 and Typhoon, or become involved in space programmes, including Major Tim Peake, who worked on board the International Space Station in 2016.
Markus Bucher, Pilatus CEO, said: “Pilatus are delighted that, after a hard fought competition, the PC-21 has been selected by QinetiQ to be the mainstay of the UK’s ETPS training. Ultimately, test flying is the basis of aviation safety and selection of the PC-21 as a successor to the Hawk and Alpha Jet is testament to both the aircrafts performance and flexibility. We look forward to working with QinetiQ and supporting ETPS, one of the world’s leading test establishments, to deliver its Test Aircrew Training.”
QinetiQ manages ETPS in partnership with the Royal Air Force (RAF) Air Warfare Centre (AWC), dedicated to the development and testing of air capabilities and provision of advice to enhance frontline decision-making.
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Founded in 1939, Pilatus Aircraft Ltd is the only Swiss company to develop, produce and sell aircraft to customers around the world: from the legendary Pilatus Porter PC-6 to the best-selling PC-12, a single-engine turboprop, and the PC-21, the training system of the future. Pilatus’ newest aircraft is the PC-24 – the world’s first ever business jet that can be operated from short unprepared runways. Domiciled in Stans, the company is certified to ISO 14001 in recognition of its efforts for the environment. The Pilatus Group includes two independent subsidiaries in Broomfield (Colorado, USA) and Adelaide (Australia). With over 1800 employees at its headquarters, Pilatus is one of the largest employers in Central Switzerland. Pilatus provides training for over 110 apprentices in eleven different professions – job training for young people has always been a very high priority at Pilatus.