The Swiss Government has banned the export of 48 Pilatus PC-9 turboprop trainers to the Mexican air force, which in 1994 used armed PC-7s to quell a revolt in Mexico's Chiapas region. The manufacturer had sought export approval for the SFr300 million ($238 million) deal.

"After carefully weighing the interests, the Government concluded export of these aircraft to Mexico cannot be justified at the moment," it says in a statement.

Pilatus has responded to the Government ban, saying: "A negative decision by Swiss authorities will certainly be viewed as an unfriendly act by Mexican authorities and for Pilatus this will mean the loss of its largest foreign customer."

The Mexican air force is Pilatus' second-largest customer after the Swiss air force, having purchased 92 aircraft between 1979 and 1992. The Berne Government declined to authorise the deal if the PC-9s were capable of carrying weapons. "Mexico insisted on the aircraft being equipped with hardpoints," it says.

Mexico is looking for 48 new trainers for delivery between 1995 and 2000. Pilatus did not offer the PC-9 with weapons "...but it could be assumed that, after delivery, some of the PC-9s would be equipped for tactical training and thus armed with weapons", the company admits.

Controversy has dogged Pilatus' efforts to export its PC-7 and PC-9 trainers in the face of Switzerland's arms-export laws. In the middle of a row over PC-9 sales to South Korea in 1994, the company warned that it might switch production to another country if the Swiss Government continued to block exports. Seoul later cancelled the Korean contract .

Source: Flight International