The grounded PZL-Mielec Iryda programme has been given a new, two-year lease of life with a fresh Polish air force order, and an upgrade programme for aircraft already delivered.

As part of the programme, PZL-Mielec is to sign a contract with Sextant Avionique of France, to provide an avionics package for all 17 aircraft.

Six new Irydas are to be built by PZL-Mielec, and the 11 aircraft in service with the air force will have engine, avionics and wing upgrades. The Polish air force has protested that current versions of the trainer fail to meet its needs.

The latest contract was signed by the air force and PZL-Mielec on 16 April. Deliveries and modernisation work are to be completed by 1998. Sources close to the programme say that the wing modifications are aimed at reducing the Iryda's high approach speed to 100kt (185km/h). The engine upgrade will involve either a retrofit of the four early-build I-22 Irydas with the current standard K-15 engine, or the refitting of all aircraft with the higher-thrust K-16, now under development at engine manufacturer PZL-Rzeszow.

The early I-22 Irydas are powered by 11kN (2,400lb)-thrust PZL-5 turbojets, later superseded by the K-15 in the M-93 version of the aircraft. Four M-93s had been delivered to the air force, and three were awaiting delivery, when the aircraft were grounded in January, following a fatal crash involving an I-22, which the air force later attributed to a technical fault .

Source: Flight International