The head of the Czech air force is keen for the service to become the launch customer for Aero Vodochody’s modernised L-39NG trainer.

Speaking during a visit to the manufacturer’s Odolena Voda site, Maj Gen Jaromír Šebesta said the L-39NG could be integrated into its fleet of older Albatros aircraft operated from Pardubice air base.

Operated by LOM Praha, the site at Pardubice could become a regional centre of excellence for pilot training in the coming years, Šebesta says.

Describing the air force as a “long-term strategic partner to Aero”, chief executive Giuseppe Giordo says the service’s backing will be “key to the future success of the project”.

He adds: “And the interest of the flight training centre in Pardubice is also an important signal to other potential customers.”

L-39NG retrofit prototype - Beth Stevenson

The L-39 retrofitted to the NG standard

Beth Stevenson/FlightGlobal

The NG variant of the aircraft gains a more powerful Williams International FJ44-4M engine, plus a new Genesys Aerosystems avionics suite.

In September the company said it was about to begin development of a new-build example of the NG following a test phase using an L-39 retrofitted to the modernised standard.

Flight testing is scheduled to begin by the middle of 2017, with certification due the following year, Aero says. It aims to eventually produce 15 aircraft a year, and deliveries are expected to begin in 2019-20.

The development of the advanced version has been co-funded by Omnipol, a former state-owned agency that was responsible for selling the L-39 at the peak of its success between 1968 and 1997, when 2,957 L-39s were delivered.