The Royal Australian Air Force has publicly presented the colour scheme to be worn by the new Pilatus PC-21 training aircraft of its formation aerobatic display team the Roulettes.
The Roulettes aircraft feature the same basic red fuselage, white tail and blue underside scheme worn by the PC-21s being introduced into service with the RAAF’s 2 Flying Training School (2FTS) but gain blue triangles on the fuselage and wings and the trademark Roulettes ‘R’ and Southern Cross tail markings.
“There are two PC-21 schemes, one of them is somewhat of a retro colour scheme with World War 2 style markings, and that will be the 2FTS bird, and that was to help students identify the top and bottom of the aircraft and make it a very easy aircraft to see from a long distance,” Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Leo Davies told Australian Aviation at the launch of the new scheme at the Fairbairn Defence Establishment at Canberra Airport on Wednesday morning.
“For the Roulettes, however, we wanted something that was unique, so we spent a little bit of time going through colour schemes that were not totally dissimilar [to the current Roulettes scheme], was able to be understood as red, white and blue, and to have the Roulette tail, but something a little more, I’d say, edgy,” CAF said.
“As you can see it is really quite different, and I really don’t mind too much if people love it or hate it. If they’re talking about it and we get the recognition of the Roulettes, their aircraft, their colour scheme, their new display, that’s all I want.”
The six-aircraft Roulettes display is flown by qualified flying instructors (QFIs) from the RAAF’s Central Flying School, based at RAAF Base East Sale, Victoria. Roulette pilots fly with the team as a secondary duty, in addition to being instructors at CFS.
“The Roulettes are part of the Air Force heritage. They’re part of what helps us display to Australians and international guests that we have an Air Force that has a high skill level,” CAF said.
“Trying to keep them modern, trying to keep them vibrant is really important, so they’ve changed their display over time, but now we’re transitioning to the PC-21 it’s a real opportunity.
“And talking to the drivers this morning they’ve all said the PC-21 brings with it some very different characteristics, a higher roll rate, more power, more speed. So the Roulettes team is really excited about how we design the new display for PC-21.”
The Roulettes team is expected to make its first public displays with the PC-21 at the Avalon Airshow in late February/early March next year.
A new Pilot Training System
The PC-21 aircraft sits at the centre of the Air Force’s new Pilot Training System, being introduced under the AIR 5428 project. Forty-nine PC-21s are on order, of which 22 have now been handed over to the Commonwealth. They will be complemented by seven flight training device (FTD) simulators, of which six have now been delivered or are in the process of being installed, four at RAAF Base East Sale and two with 2FTS at RAAF Base Pearce, WA.
Under AIR 5428, the PC-21 will replace both the ageing Pilatus PC-9/A advanced trainer, which has been in service since 1988, and the CT-4B Airtrainer, which has been used for flight screening and basic training.
“What young men and women coming through the gate in RAAF Base East Sale will get is on day one is not a book and a classroom and a pen and a set of questions, they’re going to get a modern training environment that says, I can pull this system apart, digitally, I can learn at my own rate, I can use different techniques,” CAF said.
“Our QFIs now have a different way to teach. if someone needs an extra hour on a particular part of a circuit, [with simulation] you don’t have to get airborne for three days in a row for 35 circuits to get it right.”
As an integrated system, AIR 5428 is designed to train all future RAAF, Royal Australian Navy and Australian Army pilots. The project spans flight screening and all phases of pilot training from basic flying training at East Sale through to the advanced flying training at 2FTS at Pearce.
“Our estimate is that we will get more candidates in the front, we’ll be able to pass more candidates, and they will pass at a higher standard, ready to go a C-17, a P-8, a Hawk, a Hornet. The differential between graduation standard and where they begin their operational conversion will be narrowed, if not zeroed,” AIRMSHL Davies said.
CAF said with a growing global plot shortage and increasing competition for high-quality pilot training candidates, “We’re going to need to step up, and for me that means we need higher quality candidates, we need more candidates, we need a higher graduation standard, and we’re meeting that challenge with the PC-21, AIR 5428, Lockheed Martin and Pilatus, together with the Royal Australian Air Force. It’s a winner I reckon.”
Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor with responsibility for delivering AIR 5428 and is providing the ground-based training environment, with Pilatus providing the PC-21 aircraft and Hawker Pacific providing maintenance support.
The first six PC-21s were formally welcomed into service at RAAF Base East Sale in August 2017, while the new Roulettes scheme was first noted on two PC-21s delivered to the RAAF in July.
To hear more about the Roulettes’ transition from the PC-9 to the PC-21, listen to episode 17 of the Australian Aviation podcast, where we speak with Roulette #4 FLTLT Scott Tavasci and Roulette #7 FLTLT Daniel Armstrong.