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Pilatus PC-21

Jetpiloten-Ausbildungssystem PC-21 (JEPAS PC-21) - Jet pilot training system

Training aircraft
Place of operation

Manufacturer: Pilatus Aircraft Ltd, Stans, Switzerland
Year of manufacture: 2007 (6) / 2012 (2)

  • Basic and advanced training for jet pilots
  • Aerial combat, blind and aerobatics training

Crew: 1 Pilot, 1 student or 1 passenger
Operated since: 2008 (6) / 2012 (2)
Number of aircraft procured: 8
Number of aircraft still in service: 8 (as per December 2015)

Registration: A-101 bis A-108

With its new PC-21 (JEPAS PC-21) jet pilot training, the Swiss Air Force is breaking new ground in converting pilots directly from the PC-21 to the Boeing F/A-18 Hornet. This is an innovation that is unique worldwide. In the nineties, the goal of training was conversion to the Hawker Hunter or the Northrop F-5 Tiger II. By the end of the nineties it became evident that one would have to focus on the requirements of the F/A-18. The training approach went from the Pilatus PC-7 Turbo-Trainer via F-5 Tiger to the F/A-18 Hornet. But a jet trainer had to satisfy the specifications of the aircraft that was to be flown later. This requirement could not be met with the F-5 Tiger. Thus, the idea was born to convert from a propeller plane directly to the F/A-18. The PC-21 was the name of the practical solution. The Pilatus PC-21 is very sophisticated regards avionics and systems training and enables a training that had never been possible on the jet aircraft that used to be deployed. A disadvantage of the PC-21 is its limited engine power. This because its turboprop engine cannot achieve the propulsive power of a jet.

Professional military pilot training takes about five years and four months. First three years and four months of flying are required in combination with airline pilot training. Military flight training itself takes two years: 30 weeks on the Pilatus PC-7 Turbo-Trainer and 45 weeks on the PC-21. During these 45 weeks of training topics such as technical conversion, instrument flight training (IFR), formation flying, navigation, air-to-ground attack, air policing and air warfare are taught. 210 missions are planned for each student.

In the context of the jet pilot training system (JEPAS) which Switzerland procured for 115 million Swiss francs with the 2006 Armament Programme External website. Content opens in new window, six aircraft were delivered and taken into operation in 2008. On 20 July 2007, HB-HYA with plant registration No. 103 took off from Buochs air base for its maiden flight. It was the first PC-21 prototype flying for the Swiss Air Force, which later on was registered as military aircraft A-101. Like its predecessor, the second PC-21 (plant No. 104) was first registered as civilian aircraft, HB-HYB on 6 July 2007. In the beginning, the configuration of these prototypes did not meet armasuisse External website. Content opens in new window requirements exactly but were modified to serial standards later on.

For mid 2008, the air force planned the first courses to train the 2004 pilot class (PK 04) with this revolutionary concept. At the same time pilot course PK 03 concluded. It was the last course to use the F-5F Tiger II as training aircraft.

Two further Pilatus PC-21 

On 12 April 2012 the procurement organisation armasuisse handed over two further Pilatus PC-21 aircraft (A-107 and A-108) to the Swiss Air Force at Emmen Airbase. 

Use of airspace for training purposes 

In its endeavours to keep aircraft noise to a minimum, the Swiss Air Force carries out most training flights during office hours, i.e. Monday to Friday from 8:30 to 12:00 a.m. and from 1:30 to 5:00 p.m.. The minimum flight altitude of 3050m ASL for propeller aircraft helps to reduce noise emission as well. Due to the dense population of our country with hardly uninhabited areas, flight training in the three designated airspaces will always produce noise nuisance. Which airspace is used for PC-21 training flights depends on where the pilot school is based. If based in Sion, mainly airspace ‘Jura‘ and ‘Hogant‘ are used, and if based in Emmen, the second location, airspaces ‘Speer‘ and ‘Hohgant‘.

‘Hohgant‘ training area comprises the airspace over Thun, Susten, Buochs and Wolhusen, ‘Speer‘ the airspace over Glarus, the Liechtenstein border, Urnäsch and Schänis., and ‘Jura’ the airspace over Biel and Yverdon with Lake Neuchâtel and the national border to France as boundaries.


Technical data  
Max. speed: 370 Knoten (685 km/h), Mach 0.72
Max. climb performance: 4'250 ft/min (1'295 m/min)
Max. operating ceiling: 25'000 ft above sea level (7'620 m above sea level)
Max. range: 720 NM (1'333 km)
Construction: Cantilever long wing aeroplane, metal construction semi-monocoque design. Hydraulically operated landing gear, flaps and air brake.
Length: 11.23 m
Height: 3.75 m
Wingspan: 9.10 m
Empty mass: 2'270 kg
Max. take-off mass (MTOM): 4'250 kg
Engine: Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-68B propeller turbine