Technical problems with Jetstream could lead to shortage of multi-engine pilots

The UK Ministry of Defence is due to decide this month on a possible interim replacement for its 11 Bae Jetstream T1 multi-engine trainers. Technical problems with the Jetstream mean the Royal Air Force is unable to train the required number of multi-engine pilots.

A defence official says Babcock Defence Services and Serco have bid for the deal, which is an element of a wider "multi-activity contract" for RAF Cranwell in eastern England.

A request for tenders was issued in the second half of last year, with the MoD aiming to have a contract in place by April next year. The bidders are understood to be offering leased, used Jetstream 32s or the larger Jetstream 41, with BAE Asset Management providing the aircraft. The Jetstreams' serviceability rate means there are difficulties in providing the six aircraft needed.

Contract length is yet to be decided as the UK is due to start its privately financed Military Flying Training System (MFTS) from 2007, although multi-engine training will not necessarily become part of MFTS immediately.

The defence official says any contract for replacement aircraft will have to account for MFTS, and that a further issue is a long-term contract with Thales for managing a Jetstream T1 simulator, which would be incompatible with the newer aircraft.

Officer commanding 3 Flying Training School, Wg Cdr Steve Townsend, says if the Jetstreams are replaced, the provider will be contracted for flying hours and not a number of aircraft. New aircraft are not guaranteed and the RAF will only proceed if a "suitable solution" is offered, he says.

Sqn Ldr Bob Price, officer commanding 45(R) Sqn, the Jetstream operator, says the unit is failing to meet pilot training targets. Last year's shortfall was small - five short of the intended 57 - but instructor training was much lower than planned, which will change next year. The number of pilots to be trained is increasing to 62 a year.

Speaking at the IQPC Military Flight Training conference in London last week, Price said the Jetstream T1 is not compliant with modern civil airspace requirements. The aircraft's avionics are not compatible with BRNAV basic area navigation requirements, nor does it have an airborne collision avoidance and enhanced ground proximity warning system, Mode S transponder and 8.33kHz spacing radios.

Source: Flight International