Pilatus is hopeful of clinching an order from the French air force in early 2017 for 20-25 PC-21 turboprops as a replacement for the service’s aged fleet of Dassault Alpha Jet trainers.
Speaking at the NBAA business aviation convention in Orlando, Florida on 31 October, Markus Bucher, chief executive of the Swiss manufacturer, says a contract from France's DGA procurement agency is “quite close”.
The PC-21, which is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engine, is the only aircraft being offered by the two shortlisted consortia, respectively led by Airbus Defence & Space and Babcock.
Although clearly in prime position, Bucher cautions that a deal may “still take a little while” to finalise. Assuming that Paris does not abandon the procurement, a decision is likely in early 2017.
Pilatus had previously faced competition from Leonardo’s Aermacchi M-345, but the developmental jet has not been taken forward to the final stages of the contest.
Meanwhile, delivery of the first of an eventual 49 PC-21s to the Royal Australian Air Force under the service’s Air 5428 requirement is moving forward. Certification of the RAAF variant, which features 216 changes over the baseline PC-21, was achieved in August, says Bucher.
Several examples have already been flown from Pilatus’s Stans, Switzerland production facility ahead of the initial handover in mid-2017, says Bucher.