SALE’S beloved little red planes just got a shiny new upgrade.
The first fleet of Pilatus PC-21s were unveiled at RAAF Base, East Sale, on Friday, and will be used to train pilots for the Air Force, Navy and Army from 2019.
The aircraft will also eventually replace the base’s PC-9s which have been in service since 1987, and are used by the RAAF Roulettes.
The new planes will service the base’s instructor school or Central Flying School, as new recruits come to the base to train.
The reveal coincided with the halfway milestone of construction for the $200 million expansion to the base’s Basic Flying Training School facilities, which is on track for a October 2018 completion.
The upgrades include new accommodation units, maintenance facilities, classrooms and start-of-the-art flight simulators.
The facilities will be able to service 165 trainee pilots each year for the Australian Defence Force from January next year.
The official handover of the PC-21s was undertaken by Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, Defence Minister Marise Payne and Gippsland MHR and Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester.
Air Marshal Davies said the new pilot training system would produce multi-skilled aircrew able to operate all current and future fixed wing and rotary wing platforms.
“We will have higher pass rates, a better From page 1
selection process and we will be able to prepare our students for their flying careers with the highly complex mission and system training required to operate our modern aircraft.
“We can’t possibly hope to get our young men and women up to that combat standard if we don’t have an effective training mechanism.”
Air Marshal Davies said the base’s new flight simulators will also be an effective training tool for new recruits, letting students familiarise themselves with an aircraft before hitting the skies.
“This allows each of the students to do flight preparation, so that when they go flying they can maximise every hour airborne,” the Air Marshal said.
“This will allow them to make a mistake or two in the simulator, showed that they’ve learnt from it, and now go flying, rather than, in some respects, waste half an hour flying making mistakes.”
Air Marshal Davies said the day wasn’t just about new planes and simulators, but the redevelopment of East Sale as a base.
“I want young men and women who are thinking about a career in the Defence Force to be able to look at East Sale as a model, and say ‘I really want to learn on that aircraft, I want to be a part of an outfit that is so contemporary and exciting, and I can’t wait to be part of it’,” he said.
While unmanned aerial systems are becoming part of what the ADF will use to be effective in combat and surveillance, Air Marshal Davies said a totally unmanned Air Force would not happen anytime soon.
“I think there are more unmanned aerial systems that will come into our inventory over the next few years, but it’s not a change that happens in a year, or indeed a decade — it will be over tens and twenties of years, where we need to find the right effect for the outcome we seek.”
Minister Payne hailed the base’s aircraft as the “world’s most advanced pilot training aircraft”.
“The PC-21 is only one part of a comprehensive training system that is going to enable us to train more people faster and to a higher standard,” she said.
“I think it’s going to, and I certainly hope it will, attract a lot of young people with an interest in flying in the Royal Australian Air Force, or for that matter, fulfilling a whole other range of roles in the RAAF.
“Our future generations of Joint Strike Fighter, Wedgetail and Growler pilots will begin their training on these aircraft, ensuring we have a pipeline of highly skilled trainees.
“This will provide the Australian Defence Force with a tailored pilot training system to meet the needs of our pilots for the next 30 years.
“There’s never been a more important time to be a trainee pilot in the Royal Australian Air Force.”
Mr Chester said he was proud of the role his electorate played in training Australia’s pilots, as well as the economic benefits it generated for the local community.
“We have a rich and a proud history for providing the training needs for our Defence Force, and that’s going to continue for many decades into the future,” he said.
“It’s going to mean some of the best and brightest young people in the nation will have their first experience in the Defence Force here in Sale.”
Mr Chester said the Basic Flying Training School was expected to deliver a $15 million per year boost to the Gippsland economy, on top of the current defence contribution of $12 million per year in direct wages and supplies.
“The flow of investment and job opportunities anticipated for the Sale region with the relocation of Basic Flying Training School, including $200 million for facilities works, will provide a significant economic boost for our community,” Mr Chester said.
Currently, there are eight PC-21s in Australia, with six already in the Air Force’s register, and two still being evaluated.
Eventually, 49 PC-21s will be assigned to the Air Force, with a 20 to 21 split between RAAF Base, East Sale, and RAAF Base, Pearce, for pilot training purposes, as well as four for RAAF Base, Williamstown for joint terminal air controller training and three in the aircraft research and development unit at RAAF Base, Edinburgh.
The paint scheme displayed on the units unveiled on Friday was the 2 Flight Training School’s, therefore the planes will eventually transfer to RAAF Base, Pearce, while Sale awaits its new permanent residents.