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.