T-6Cs to Train the Te Tauaarangi o Aotearoa
The Royal New Zealand Air Force has made an interesting choice. They’re about to begin replacing their 12 locally-designed CT-4E basic trainers, and 4 leased Beechcraft King Air multi-engine conversion trainers, with 11 Textron Beechcraft T-6C basic/intermediate trainer turboprops. The NZ$ 154 million package includes the planes, 2 CAE operational simulators, computer-based training courseware, and customized RNZAF pilot training syllabi.
It’s an interesting platform choice, since the RNZAF has no high performance aircraft to train for.
The T-6C aircraft and simulators will be based with 14 Squadron at RNZAF Base Ohakea, where they will support primary through advanced aircrew training before airmen move on to operational squadrons of 4-engine P-3K2 sea control turboprops, 4-engine C-130H turboprop transports, or Boeing 757 jets. Other students may move on to helicopter training, or to the flight instructor course (FIC). Senior flight instructors can be recruited to the RNZAF’s Red Checkers aerobatic team, and they will also use the T-6Cs.
That certainly makes sense for the Red Checkers, but multi-engine flying has aspects all its own, and moving from a single-engine turboprop to a 4-engine plane in one step is a big jump. It will be interesting to see how that goes.
There’s also a bit of a local controversy, in that Pacific Air had offered to manufacture more CT-4Es, allowing the government to use them for basic training and halve the number of more expensive T-6Cs. The savings were said to be substantial, but government decided not to pursue that offer. Flight International reports that “structural problems with the leased [CT-4E] fleet have reportedly caused backlogs in the output of qualified pilots,” which may help to explain.
The CT-4Es will reach the end of their safe service life in 2018, and the King Air 200 lease expires that same year. Fortunately, the RNZAF can expect to have its new trainers long before that happens. The first 4 T-6Cs will be assembled in Wichita, KS and delivered to the RNZAF in November 2014, to begin validation flying. All of the T-6Cs will be delivered by mid-2015, by which point they will begin conducting pilot training.
An accompanying 30-year logistics support agreement is sub-contracted to the familiar faces at New Zealand based Safe Air Ltd. and to CAE Australia. They’ll provide aircraft material support, full flight line and operational maintenance, and simulator/software maintenance.
The order is good news for all of the companies involved. It certainly helps Beechcraft, despite the order’s small size. In August 2013, after emerging from bankruptcy, Beechcraft landed a huge $788 million order from the Wheels Up fractional aviation firm for 105 King Air 350i aircraft. On the military side, however, the USA has bought all of the T-6A JPATS trainers it needs, and past T-6 orders from Canada, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Mexico, and Morocco needed a follow-on buy.
- Pacific Air – CT-4 Airtrainer. Interesting company. Militaries may be interested in the amazing short-takeoff performance of their P-750 XSTOL multi-role light cargo plane, even when carrying more than its weight. Without that load, it can get airborne and land in under 175 feet.
- RNZAF – CT-4E Airtrainer
- Beechcraft – T-6C Military Trainers
- New Zealand Government (Jan 27/14) – New pilot training capability contract awarded. For the curious, neighboring Australia uses Pilatus PC-9s for this role.
- Waikato Times (Jan 28/14) – Hamilton deal ‘would have saved $100m’
- Flight International (Jan 27/14) – New Zealand signs T-6C trainer deal
- Beechcraft (Jan 27/14) – Beechcraft Signs Contracts with Royal New Zealand Air Force for 11 T-6C Trainer Aircraft and Fully Integrated Flight Training Solution