The Swiss Air Force celebrated the tenth anniversary of the PC-21 Jet Pilot Training System (JEPAS) in September 2018. Pilatus has provided support for the system from day one and is responsible for aircraft maintenance and servicing. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd.
The Swiss Air Force took delivery of the first Pilatus PC-21s in May 2008 and Pilot Class 04 – the first to train on the new aircraft – got underway soon after in July 2008. By the end of last year, the graduates of Class 12 had completed their training on the PC-21.
Jet pilot training on the PC-21
The Swiss Air Force uses the Pilatus PC-21 for jet pilot training at the Emmen military air base. The Pilatus PC‑7 is used in the selection of candidates for the pilot academy and for subsequent basic training. The prospective jet pilots then go on to complete their entire jet fighter training on the PC-21, transferring direct to the F/A-18 Hornet after qualifying on PC-21. This revolutionary training concept has been used by the Swiss Air Force for the past ten years. The PC-21 display layout and systems are presented in a way that mirrors what pilots will find in the latest generation of fighter jets. This allows them to familiarise themselves with a state-of-the-art cockpit environment from the first day of training onward. With no jet trainer aircraft required for training purposes, the cost of pilot training is far less. Last but not least, there is a massive reduction in pollutant emissions.
Two further PC-21s were added to the existing fleet in 2012, bringing the total number of PC-21s in use to eight. This enabled further areas of instruction, night flying for example, to be transferred from other systems to the PC-21. The Swiss Air Force training system also includes a ground-based training system with a simulator and “Mission Planning and Debriefing System”.
Maintenance by Pilatus
Regular discussions take place with the Swiss Air Force, armasuisse (Federal Office for Defence Procurement), the Armed Forces Logistics Organisation and the Armed Forces staff to manage and meet the requirements of the pilot academy. This ensures that the PC-21 training system is kept up to date in order to provide pilot training of the highest standard. Long-term planning guarantees excellent aircraft availability for the pilot academy.
Pilatus is responsible for maintenance and servicing of the PC-21s, and a team is based in Emmen especially for this purpose. Three Field Service Engineers and a Technical Representative look after the aircraft and accompany the academy on training missions in Switzerland and abroad. The scope of their work includes scheduled and unscheduled maintenance and servicing, monitoring of deadlines, integration of modifications and logistics-related management of spare parts. The geographical proximity of Pilatus in Stans facilitates rapid reaction times. Additional specialists can be seconded to the team as required. The head office Customer Service team in Stans takes care of technical queries, modifications and configuration management.
Proud of the red trainer aircraft
The Swiss Air Force celebrated “10 Years’ PC-21 and EC635” at the Emmen Air Base on 26 September 2018. The EC635 is a helicopter which was also incorporated in 2008. A special anniversary logo was created for the event and applied to both sides of the tail fin of a PC-21. Divisional General Bernhard Müller, Head of the Air Force, greeted the guests, noting the presence of SPHAIR graduates and future jet pilots with pleasure.
General Staff Colonel Markus Thöni, Head of Pilot Academy 85, said a few words about the rollout and subsequent use of the PC-21 with the Swiss Air Force. “We can be proud of our red trainer aircraft and the way in which we use it to train our future fighter pilots and bring them up to scratch for the F/A-18”, he remarked.
The training concept has proven its worth over and over again. Numerous military pilots have been trained in the past ten years – with many more to come, no doubt.