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Australian Chief of Air Force (CAF) has completed the first flight of the in-service PC-21 aircraft, marking a significant milestone for the AIR 5428 pilot training system.

The flight was conducted at a ceremony held to officially welcome the first six new Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) Pilatus PC-21 training aircraft at RAAF Base East Sale, Victoria, Australia.

Lockheed Martin Australia chief executive Vince Di Pietro said: "This milestone is a great achievement to all involved and we celebrate the Australian Defence Force's first flight in service and acceptance of the first six of 49 PC-21 aircraft, as the mainstay trainer for Australia's pilot training programme for decades to come.

"Combining the PC-21 turboprop training aircraft with state-of-the-art training simulations and an electronic learning environment, Australia's new Pilot Training System will prepare Australia's next-generation pilots for mission success."

In December 2015, an initial seven-year A$1.2bn contract was signed for the AIR 5428 pilot training system designed to train all future pilots of the RAAF, Royal Australian Navy , and the Australian Army.

"Australia's new Pilot Training System will prepare Australia's next-generation pilots for mission success."

As part of the AIR 5428 contract, Lockheed Martin is responsible for overall project management for the pilot training system and to deliver a family of integrated ground-based training technologies.

Pilatus Aircraft is providing 49 PC-21 turboprop training aircraft and through-life engineering and airworthiness support, while Hawker Pacific will deliver maintenance services and fleet assistance.

The contract comes with performance-based options that extend the value and length of the contract for up to 25 years.

The new PC-21 aircraft will replace the PC-9/A training system from early 2019.

Image: Australia’s Chief of Air Force pilots a PC-21 aircraft taking his first PC-21 in-service flight in East Sale. Photo: courtesy of Australia Department of Defence.