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New Pilatus plane grounded by federal ruling

The wreckage of the Pilatus PC-21 strewn over the runway of Buochs airfield Keystone

The Federal Office for Civil Aviation has banned the Swiss aircraft manufacturer, Pilatus, from further tests of its prototype PC-21 military training plane.

This content was published on January 14, 2005 - 11:38

The ban comes a day after one of the company's two prototypes crashed. The chief test pilot was killed and another person was seriously injured.

"We have banned the second plane from flying," FOCA spokesman Daniel Göring told swissinfo on Friday.

Following the crash, the decision is more bad news for Pilatus, which had hoped to go into serial production of the aircraft.

The company had expected to produce 500 PC-21s over the next 20 years, but the ban now puts these plans on hold.

The PC-21 is the latest model developed by Pilatus, a leading manufacturer of single-engine turbo-propeller aircraft. It was only granted its flight certificate by the civil aviation office at the end of last year.

On Thursday, one of the two prototypes crashed during a series of test flights in central Switzerland. Eyewitnesses said the plane suddenly banked and touched the ground before exploding.

A woman on the ground was injured and is being treated at Zurich University hospital. The company’s chief test pilot died at the scene.

Investigation

It is not known what caused the fatal crash. Federal aviation accident investigators have launched an inquiry, but it could take some time before their findings are released.

The PC-21 is a new breed of military training aircraft, which bears similarities to a jet but, the manufacturers say, produces less noise and pollution.

The construction project began in 1999 with the collaboration of the Swiss, British, South African and Australian air forces. The first prototype was launched in 2002, with a second following in 2004.

Pilatus has invested SFr200 million ($170 million) in the PC-21 project. It intended to sell the plane for SFr8-10 million.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

1939: Pilatus Aircraft Ltd established in Stans, Switzerland.
1944: First flight of a Pilatus aircraft - the SB-2 "Pelican".
1953: P-3 military trainers delivered to the Swiss Air Force and Brazil.
1978: First flight of the PC-7 Turbo Trainer. To date, more than 450 have been built.
1984: First PC-9 Advanced Turbo Trainer produced; more than 200 sold.
1994: First PC-12 multipurpose aircraft built.
1999: PC-21 project launched.

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In brief

Pilatus produces mainly military training aircraft.

It employs 1,000 workers in Switzerland.

The Pilatus PC-6, PC-7 and PC-9 models are in service in numerous countries' armies.

Pilatus hoped to sell 500 of the PC-21 aircraft over the next 20 years.

The new plane boasts a digital cockpit and systems similar to those of a jet.

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