By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has accelerated the training schedules being provided to its rookie pilots at the Air Force Academy (AFA) in Dundigal (near Hyderabad) since the induction of the Swiss Basic Trainer Aircraft (BTA) Pilatus PC-7 Mk-II. In addition to the increased flying sorties being given to the trainees, the IAF is also satisfied with the maintainability of the aircraft, which has been a concern in the past.
The PC-7 Mk-II was inducted last year and so far the IAF has taken delivery of 35 BTAs, less than two years after the contract was inked with Pilatus Aircraft for a total delivery of 75 aircraft. Sources say that the remaining 40 aircraft are being flown-in on a monthly basis (at an average of two) as per the accelerated delivery schedule. The BTA fleet has clocked over 12,000 flying hours with over 24,000 landings, since February last year.
Satisfied with the BTAs performance, the IAF had issued an Request for Information (RFI) for additional 106 aircraft in March. Jim Roche, Deputy CEO, Pilatus Aircraft tells Express that Pilatus is currently responding to RFI. "Due to the complexity of the requests, an application to extend the deadline has to the best of our knowledge been made to the IAF for an extension of the original deadline," Jim said in an email interaction.
When asked whether the aircraft would undergo any upgradation in the wake of firm additional orders, Jim said in the negative. "The question assumes an order will be placed, this is not within our control. However, we do not foresee any changes to the specification at this time, provided there is a commitment within the timeframe of the option clause within the existing contract," he said.
Apart from the 75 aircraft contracted to the IAF, there are close to a 100 PC-7 Mk-IIs in operation world over. "However, the total number of Pilatus trainer aircraft delivered and currently on order exceeds 1000 aircraft," says Jim.
Commanders' meet today: The IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha will address the Air Force station commanders at the Training Command in Bangalore on Thursday. This is Raha's maiden visit to Bangalore, after taking over as the IAF chief. All commanders of flying, technical and non-technical training establishments of Training Command will be attending the two-day commander's conference.
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