Spain selects PC-21 to fulfil training requirements

Spain has decided to replace its ageing fleet of CASA C-101 Aviojet jet trainers with the Pilatus PC-21 single-engined turboprop.

The announcement was made in late November on the Spanish government's procurement website Plataforma de Contractacion del Sector Publico (PCSP). The deal, worth €204.75m (US$225.5m), includes 24 PC-21s, an integrated training system (ITS) with two networked flight simulators, an ejection trainer, two cockpit simulators and an initial logistics package. Spain will pay for the new training aircraft in three annual instalments: €71.5m (US$79.39m) in 2020, €71m (US$78.84m) in 2021, and €62.5 (US$69.4m) in 2022. The country had initially set a budget of €225m (US$249.85m).

The first six PC-21s - which will be designated as E.27s in Spanish service - are expected to be delivered in March 2020. The final aircraft is scheduled to be handed over before the end of 2022. This will give instructors ample time to train on the new platform, enabling student pilots to begin training on the PC-21 in late 2021/early-2022. 

PC-21 [Pilatus]
Pilatus PC-21, registration HB-HZC, in flight. Pilatus

The PC-21 was selected over the Beechcraft T-6C Texan II, Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano, and KAI's KT-1 to replace the C-101, which is set to be retired from Ejército del Aire (EdA/Spanish Air Force) service in 2021. The contract award notification stated that Pilatus' bid offered Spain "the best value for money". 

Along with the C-101, the PC-21 will replace the ENAER T-35C Pillán elementary flying trainers, which are known locally as E.26 Tamiz. Upon entering service, the PC-21 will be employed by the Academia General del Aire (AGA), located at Murcia-San Javier – home of Spanish Air Force initial fixed-wing training. The new aircraft will start by replacing the AGA-based T-35Cs before eventually replacing the C-101EBs here. The air arm has yet to announce its intentions with the remaining C-101EBs and its fleet of Northrop F-5Bs, which are operated in an advanced training role. The future aircraft employed by the EdA’s Patrulla Águila, has also yet to be addressed. Spain’s national aerobatic team currently flies the C-101EB and is also based at Murcia-San Javier.

Spain will become the tenth operator of the PC-21, with the type also in service with the air arms of Australia, France, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates. The UK's QinetiQ (Empire Test Pilot's School) also operates two PC-21s. Spain will join France in replacing jet-powered aircraft in the advanced training role with turboprop-powered platforms, with the Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) selecting to replace its Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet E fleet with the PC-21 in 2017.