Inside the Archive: Pilatus PC-9

Over the last three decades, the Pilatus PC-9/A has trained thousands of aircrew across the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force. The PC-9 is a single-engine, low-wing tandem-seat turboprop training aircraft first introduced into the Royal Australian Air Force in 1987. Designed by Pilatus Switzerland, the PC-9 was the powerful successor of the Pilatus PC-7. The aircraft completed its first flight in May 1984 and received its official certification in September of the same year.

The RAAF ordered 67 of the training aircraft under Defence Minister Kim Beazley in July 1986, the first two of which - HB-HQA and HB-HQB - were built in Switzerland and ferried to Australia in December 1987. The remaining 65 aircraft were built in Bankstown, Sydney, under license by Hawker de Havilland.

The PC-9/A was officially retired from the RAAF in December 2019, to be replaced by the world's most advanced pilot training aircraft - Pilatus PC-21. Among the last to utilise the PC-9 was the No. 2 Flying Training School at RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia and the RAAF's aerobatics display team, The Roulettes. The last public flying displays of the Roulettes utilising PC-9/A aircraft occurred during the Avalon International Airshow in March 2019.

At a farewell ceremony for the PC-9/A at RAAF Base Pearce, Deputy Air Commander Australia Air Commodore Guy Wilson said he was proud to join hundreds of RAAF members, personnel from supporting contractor Airflite, along with representatives from original manufacturer Pilatus and their respective families at the function.

"The PC-9 aircraft has provided fantastic service to the Australian Defence Force over the past three decades," AIRCDRE Wilson said. "The aircraft has successfully supported 103 pilot training courses and graduated more than 1,400 pilots from Navy and Air Force. For those who have flown and supported the PC-9 fleet, seeing them retire will be an emotional experience – but the introduction of the PC-21 allows us to deliver modern and effective training that will serve the next generation of pilots."

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