The rookie pilots of the Indian Air Force (IAF) would soon learn the fine art of flying, on board the Swiss Pilatus PC-7 Basic Trainer Aircraft beginning July.
The PC-7 planes would be inducted into the IAF by Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh at the Air Force Academy at Dundigul in Hyderabad on May 31, an IAF officer said here on Tuesday.
“The first set of 40 new IAF recruits will begin their basic flying training on the Pilatus planes from July,” the officer said.
With the induction of Pilatus planes — 75 of them were bought for Rs 2,800 crore in May last year — the IAF’s pilot training programme is expected to get a boost. Already, 12 of the Pilatus planes have reached Dundigul, while another two are expected to join the fleet by July. By December this year, the number of planes in the fleet would grow to 30 under the accelerated delivery schedule, the officer said.
All 75 planes would be in the fleet by 2015.
Since the IAF grounded its 100-odd Hindustan Aeronautics Limited-built HPT-32 Deepak planes in mid-2009 following a series of fatal air crashes, the pilot training programme had suffered as rookie pilots had to begin their basic training on speedier jet planes, particularly the ageing HJT-16 Kiran Mk-II aircraft.
Now the IAF is all set to opt for the additional 37 PC-7 planes, which could be bought from Pilatus under the follow-on clause in India’s May 2012 contract with the Swiss plane manufacturer.
“With the IAF rejecting an HAL proposal for developing a basic trainer aircraft in the form of HTT-40, India opting to enforce the follow-on order clause seemed imminent,” the IAF officer said.
The IAF has, with the induction of Pilatus planes, modified its pilot training programme to allow for stage-I training on the Swiss plane, the first of which landed in India in February this year and had its first public flying display in Pokhran later that month during the ‘Iron Fist’ air power display.
However, the issues related to training would be far from over in view of the delay in the HAL’s Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) ‘Sitara’ programme.
The IJTs were to replace the ageing Kiran planes that are used for the stage-II training.
The stage-III training, ahead of the pilots graduating to the supersonic jets such as MiG-21s, is carried out on the British-origin BAE System’s ‘Hawk’ Advanced Jet Trainers at Bidar air base in Karnataka.