THE AIRFORCE - AIRCRAFT - PC-7 MK II (ASTRA)
PC-7 Mk II (Astra)
Basic ab initio trainer for the SAAF. The airframe is based on that of the PC9 but fitted with the lower-powered PT6 engine.
The SAAF was the first customer for the Swiss Pilatus PC-7 MkII trainer when an order for 60 was placed in 1993, with the final aircraft being accepted in 2006. As the aircraft were fitted with a South African developed avionics suite, they received the local name of Pilatus Astra.
By 2006, the Astra fleet was experiencing considerable avionic obsolescence and reliability problems. The original South African avionic manufacturer was no longer in business, the front of the instrumentation had begun to delaminate and the SAAF was experiencing considerable problems in obtaining spare parts. As a result, the Astra was no longer certified to fly in Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC). This also impacted on the training of pilots.
This lead to the launch of Project Ithambo in October 2008 to upgrade 35 Astras and the provision of associated training aids. The contract with Pilatus Aircraft Ltd was signed on 16 October 2008. The Pilatus solution was to install the avionic suite as fitted to factory produced Pilatus PC-7 MkII aircraft which are in service with other air forces. This avionic system is certified by the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Aviation for operation under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).
The project also includes structural upgrades, requiring the separation of wing and fuselage and the replacement of all wiring harnesses.Changes include new GPS antennae immediately to the rear of the canopy and to the top of the vertical fin. The wing root fairings have also been brought up to the current PC-9M and PC-7 MkII standard.
The first two Pilatus PC-7 MkII training aircraft upgraded under the Avionics Replacement Programme was handed over to the SAAF on 13 July 2010. From August 2010, one upgraded aircraft will be delivered every month until March 2013."
It was also announced that as the modifications to the aircraft have resulted in the aircraft being returned to the standard configuration used worldwide. Therefore, the upgraded Astra in SAAF service has been renamed the Pilatus PC-7 MkII.
- Pilatus-PC-7-Fact-Sheet.pdf (532kb)