Filling a vital gap, the Indian Air Force (IAF) Friday inducted the Pilatus PC-7 basic trainer for pilots at the Air Force Academy here.
"With the unveiling of the basic training aircraft (BTA), we usher in a new era. Imparting high-quality flying training to our budding pilots will ensure proficient handling of more sophisticated aircraft in their demanding roles," Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh said at the induction ceremony in Dundigul.
The function was also attended by IAF chief Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne.
Noting that the induction of the trainer was a very important landmark in the country's quest to modernise its armed forces, he said the aircraft and its associated infrastructure comprising simulators and training modules would promise higher safety standards while developing critical skills in military aviation.
The aircraft, with its excellent handling characteristics, user friendly instrumentation and modern navigation systems was ideally suited for the IAF's training requirements, Jitender Singh said.
The IAF, the minister said, was being equipped with cutting-edge technology and state-of the-art aircraft and systems. He added that the training of budding pilots on modern trainers was crucial to prepare them for the exacting requirements of combat flying.
Air Chief Marshal Browne said the induction was a significant milestone in the IAF's transformation into a modern multi-spectrum strategic force.
"It is my responsibility to ensure that our pilots and technicians operate the best trainer in the world, the nation can afford. Pilatus will prove to be the ideal platform that will train the ab-initio trainees about the nuances of basic flying and expose them to modern avionics.
"This trainer will provide a solid foundation and facilitate a seamless transition from ab-initio stage through intermediate and advanced stages into full-fledged operational flying for all streams," Browne said.
Three Pilatus PC-7 aircraft, led by Group Captain R.S. Nandedkar, got airborne in a vic formation to mark the occasion while Air Commodore Nagesh Kapoor, chief instructor (flying), handed over technical documents of the aircraft to the minister.
The aircraft would be used for basic training of all pilots of the IAF, in addition to those of the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard. Till now this role had been performed by the reliable but ageing workhorse, the HJT-16 Kiran, which was grounded some five years ago due to repeated mechanical defects.
Seventy-five aircraft have been contracted from Swiss aircraft major Pilatus. The procurement was approved by the government in May 2012 and the first batch arrived at the Academy in February as part of the accelerated induction plan. The training of the first batch of flight cadets on the aircraft would start in July.