The Pilatus PC-21 Makes French Air Force History
(Source: French Air Force, issued Oct 03, 2018)
(English translation by
The official arrival of the Pilatus PC-21 turboprop trainer marks a complete overhaul of the French Air Force’s fighter pilot combat syllabus, as the Swiss-made turboprop and its training system will eventually replace both Epsilon and Alpha Jets. (French AF photo)
On Tuesday, October 2, 2018, General Philippe Lavigne, Chief of Staff of the Air Force (CEMAA), traveled to Air Base 709 "Commandant Menard" at Cognac-Châteaubernard to mark the service introduction of the Air Force’s new training aircraft: the Pilatus PC-21.

With this acquisition, France becomes the 2nd European nation after Switzerland to receive this multi-faceted aircraft and opens a new chapter in the history of its flight schools. In the long term, these new air force training planes will replace the 30 Epsilon TBs presently operated at Cognac as well as the Alphajets based at Tours.

Thanks to its maneuvering qualities (-4, +8G) and its latest-generation avionics, the PC-21 will allow the modernization of how fighter crews are trained. The functionalities of the PC-21 system, such as on-board simulation and the quality of its simulator, allow for a profound overhaul of the training curriculum, towards a more representative program of current operations, streamlined and allowing the acquisition of basic control and the learning of a modern system (from pilotage to management of a weapons system).

A total of 17 Pilatus PC-21 single-engine turboprop aircraft and their simulators will be delivered to the Air Force early in 2019. They will be stationed at the Air Force Flying Training School (EPAA) "General Jarry", which will train future pilots for the benefit of French combat aviation: 30 pilots and ten navigators / weapon system operators for the Air Force, ten pilots for the Navy and ten simulator instructors.

For his first official visit to the Air Base 709, the Air Force Chief of Staff wanted to meet the various actors involved in the implementation of the modernized fighter pilot training system and meet the Charentais airmen.

Welcomed on arrival by Colonel Arnaud Gary, commander of the Cognac base, it is in the heart of the simulator building called "Major Laurent Pauc" that General Lavigne began his visit, before trying a flight simulation.

The keystone of the PC-21 fighter crew training system, the simulator building provided to the Air Force by Babcock, is home to two Full Mission Simulators (FMS) and three Part Task Trainers (PTT), all equipment at the leading edge of technology that operate in a network and offer striking realism.

A static exhibition commented by the first EPAA pilot instructors, trained in Switzerland and a dynamic evolution of the Pilatus PC-21 also allowed visitors to appreciate the multiple capabilities and maneuverability of the aircraft.

"At the Air Force Flying Training School, you train future combat crews and maintain our aeronautical expertise. These foundations will be essential for them to acquire a good operational level. Together, we transmit our knowledge, our know-how and our expertise to our trainees. To prepare a solid future is to explore the new potential that the PC-21 brings to the Air Force. It is a formidable training tool, a system based entirely on ground and onboard simulation, which thus opens new perspectives. This entry into service is a strong symbol of the Air Force's innovation policy," General Lavigne said during his address to the civil and military authorities and school staff before going on to thank all the actors who contributed to the PC-21 project.

The CEMAA continued his visit at the EPAA, where he was able to exchange with civilian and military personnel, including representatives of the various categories of airmen at the base. The day ended with the 1/33 "Belfort" drone squadron, the second unit stationed on the base, which is gaining momentum with the planned reception in 2019 of six additional General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper drones, a number of will increase significantly by 2020.

"Preparing for the future on this air base is also boosting our drone capabilities within the squadron, which are now surveillance and reconnaissance, and soon attack as well," concluded General Philippe Lavigne.


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