Pilatus has commenced pre-flight testing with the first of two PC-21 trainers on order for the UK's Qinetiq-managed Empire Test Pilots' School (ETPS).
Shown during a ground run performed at the Swiss manufacturer's Stans facility on 5 January carrying the temporary registration HB-HYX, the turboprop-powered aircraft will enter use with Qinetiq as G-ETPA. It will be used to help train test pilots and flight-test engineers for the UK Ministry of Defence and other ETPS customers.
Qinetiq in January 2017 announced its two-unit commitment to the Pilatus type, as part of a wider fleet modernisation activity in support of ETPS. This also includes orders for a pair of Grob Aircraft G120TP basic trainers and four Airbus Helicopters H125s, all of which should be delivered this year.
Meanwhile, the Royal Netherlands Air Force has signed a five-year agreement to assign personnel to ETPS courses running until 2022. Qinetiq values the Dutch commitment at £5.5 million ($7.4 million).