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Updated: December 14, 2013 00:18 IST

Master of skies, Pilatus, flies high

Nemmani Sreedhar
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The Air Force Academy is set to receive a total of 60 Pilatus PC-7 trainers, which will be pressed into training future IAF pilots

At first glance it looks a little bigger than an average car. But, the recently-inducted Swiss-made Pilatus PC-7 Mark-II basic trainer is indeed a tough bird, for it flew down to the city all the way from Swiss Alps. In a journey spanning six days, this low-wing, turbo-propeller aircraft crossed deserts and seas with a few pit stops.

“The longest duration of non-stop flying done by the plane was over the Arabian Sea before landing at Ahmedabad,” Patrick Willcock, the pilot who flew one of the gleaming birds, said.

The aircraft, fully manufactured at Swiss factories, was flown down to the Air Force Academy (AFA) for induction.

Pilatus is currently used to initiate trainee cadets into the craft of flying at the Academy.

“Each aircraft is manufactured and fully tested in Switzerland before setting out to India for induction at the AFA. The fact that it can fly down this distance proves its ruggedness,” Mr. Willcock said.

But, his job does not end with landing at the AFA. The aircraft has to undergo one or two acceptance flights, during which experienced Indian Air Force flying instructors will submit it to quality checks.

Armed with check-lists, Mr. Willcock and an IAF instructor subjected the aircraft to checks both on ground and in the air. “There are a series of parameters which we have to catalogue and tally with each other. The aircraft is made to fly at certain altitudes for a considerable duration of time to see if it is good enough for training a rooky,” Mr. Willcock said, pointing out that the aircraft has proved its air-worthiness during his long solitary flight to the city.

The AFA is set to receive a total of 60 Pilatus PC-7 trainers, which will be pressed into training future IAF pilots. Two aircraft will be added to the academy’s inventory every month.

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