ATLAS AVIATION'S ACE trainer has been damaged, probably beyond repair, during a forced landing at Johannesburg's Jan Smuts Airport on 14 February.

The accident rules out the South African-built all-composite trainer's participation at several international shows this year, and places a question mark over the future of the programme, which, as yet, has no customers.

It is the second military aircraft to come to grief within a few days: the Antonov An-70 crashed on 10 February, with the loss of seven crew and engineers

The ACE suffered a loss of pitch attitude-control during the evaluation of an updated avionics suite. Test Pilot Bob Masson, undertook several controllability tests at altitude, which indicated that power and flap manipulation would provide sufficient control, to attempt a forced landing.

Masson chose to execute a wheels-up landing, as it was "...considered safer landing at the required high-approach speed of about 120kt [220km/h]."

The aircraft landed on foam, bounced several times, and came to rest with the cockpit area intact, apart from a shattered canopy. The crew escaped with minor injuries. An inquiry into the accident is now under way.

The ACE was first flown in 1991 and was considered as a replacement for the South African Air Force's North American T-6G Harvards - a deal eventually secured by Pilatus, offering its PC-7/9 hybrid.

Source: Flight International