Customer inquiries have prompted Pilatus to consider its PC-21 as an elementary trainer as well as for the basic and advanced training roles for which it is being designed.

The Swiss manufacturer is developing the PC-21 as a replacement for its PC-7 and PC-9 trainers. The first flight of a proof-of-concept prototype was in May.

Nigel Wainwright, Pilatus' new aircraft projects - training systems consultant, says: "We were surprised the [elementary trainer] question was being asked."

He says some air forces want as few platforms in the system as possible because this reduces costs. "There are certain things you can do to the aircraft and the systems to enable it to take a student from leaving school through to the end of the advanced training syllabus."

Options include de-rating the Pratt &Whitney Canada PT6A-68B turboprop and reducing the roll rate to provide less aggressive handling, says Wainwright. The PC-21's open architecture avionics system would ease changes.

The PC-21 cockpit will have three large screens with the primary flight display (PFD) in the centre. "The other two are multifunction displays," says Wainwright. "The PFD is effectively a sealed unit. What we've decided to do is keep that PFD always in the centre at a higher level of software. The other two screens don't interfere with the flight safety-critical procedure so we can put anything we like on those screens and don't have to put them through a flight safety procedure. It adds flexibility."

The syllabus can be progressively advanced by adding layers of challenge via the software. Tools such as a ground proximity warning system, voice recognition and datalink can be plugged into the mission computer.

This system can be operated in a "tandem mode", which presents the instructor and the student with the same information, or de-coupled, which allows the instructor to use all the displays but deny the student access to any of the multifunction layering tools.

Source: Flight International