QinetiQ has placed an order with Pilatus Aircraft Ltd for two PC-21 aircraft, marking the first step in its modernization of the Empire Test Pilots’ School (ETPS) aircraft fleet.
The contract, won by Pilatus in a competition, is the first awarded by QinetiQ in delivering its program to modernize training for test pilots and aircrew. The program is part of a £1bn deal with the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), announced on December 2, 2016, under which QinetiQ and the 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.
Steve Wadey, QinetiQ’s CEO, said, “Under the recent £1bn contract amendment with the MOD we made a commitment to reducing cost and modernizing training for test pilots and aircrew.”
Graduates from ETPS often go on to test aircraft such as the F35 and Typhoon, or become involved in the space program. One such is Major Tim Peake, who worked on board the International Space Station in 2016.
Markus Bucher, Pilatus’s CEO, said, “Pilatus is 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 the aircraft’s 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 Air Warfare Centre, dedicated to the development and testing of air capabilities and provision of advice to enhance frontline decision making.