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New Pilatus trainer ready for takeoff

Pilatus unveiled its new aircraft to great fanfare

(Keystone)

Swiss aircraft builder Pilatus has unveiled its latest model - a high-tech turbo-prop designed for air force training.

The new PC-21 comes 11 years after the Pilatus Aircraft firm launched its successful PC-12.

The company believes the new aircraft can replicate the commercial success of the PC-12, a light passenger craft, popular with Australia's outback flying doctor's service and US drug enforcement agencies.

The PC-21 is a "low-wing", single-engine craft with a twin-cockpit, in which an instructor can control the aircraft independently of a student. It cost SFr200 million ($124 million) to develop.

The company says the new machine is also environmentally friendly, with low noise emissions and maintenance costs.

Three years of development

Design-work started on the PC-21 in 1999, and included consultation with air forces from South Africa, Australia, Great Britain and Switzerland.

After conducting the first flight in July, the company will begin extensive testing before building a second prototype. Pilatus hopes to make the first production aircraft available to customers from November 2004.

Potential owners will be looking at a price tag of between SFr8-9 million ($4.9-5.6 million).

Demand for the trainers, to be built in Stans in canton Nidwalden, is estimated at around 1,000 over the next 20 years.

swissinfo with agencies


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