Swiss airframer Pilatus Aircraft has unveiled the latest member of its turboprop trainer family. The new PC-7 MKX, on display at the Dubai Airshow, combines the airframe and engine of the PC-7 Mk II with a new avionics suite and cockpit displays that transform the aircraft into a 21st century “smart” trainer suitable for a new generation of student pilots.
The company is aiming the PC-7 MKX at the military basic training market, for which the type’s good performance, ease of maintenance and repair, benign handling, and attractive operating economics rank as valuable qualities. The easy introduction of students to modern avionics and displays while still learning basic flying skills smoothes the path to advanced training and front-line types.
Pilatus pioneered the turboprop trainer concept with the original PC-7 Turbo-Trainer design that first flew in 1966 and sold significant numbers around the world, including to the UAE. The follow-on PC-9 of the 1980s introduced a stepped cockpit and added more power, later becoming the basis of the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II adopted by the U.S. military.
At the behest of the South African Air Force, the PC-7 Mk II underwent development in the 1990s, marrying the new airframe and avionics of the PC-9 with the original lower-powered PT6A-25C engine of the PC-7. Offering reduced cost of operation compared to the PC-9, the PC-7 Mk II achieved a number of sales, notably to South Africa—where it was assembled under license as the Astra—India, and Malaysia, and it remained as the low-cost option in the Pilatus trainer lineup.
Now the aircraft has undergone a major revamp that makes it a more applicable stepping stone to the modern military cockpit or flight deck. Each cockpit has three next-generation high-definition display screens, comprising a large primary flight display with various flight modes, flanked by two smaller screens. They can project a moving-map, a flight management system, and an engine indicating and crew alerting system (EICAS).
Pilatus designed the PC-7 MKX as a baseline system with a range of optional add-on functions and capabilities, including synthetic vision and traffic advisory systems, autopilot, cockpit camera, and a mission debriefing system. The complementary ground-based training system options include virtual reality tools and a full-flight simulator.
Pilatus is pitching the PC-7 MKX as a lower-cost alternative to the PC-21, the latter aircraft having gained good traction in the region with sales to Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, where it performs advanced training for students graduating from the PC-7.