President Ian Khama, in his capacity as Commander of Botswana Defence Force (BDF), recently inspected one of the 5 new PC-7 MkII aircrafts, much to the amusement of those attending the handover ceremony at Sir Seretse Khama airport.
PC-7MkII aircrafts are mainly used for basic pilot training, their predecessors, the PC-7s, were also used in and search and rescue roles and several pilots are said to have graduated as a result of the PC-7 training.
BDF purchased the aircrafts from Pilatus, a company from Switzerland that has been working with the BDF since 1989 when BDF bought seven of the first generation PC-7 aircrafts.
After reaching the end of their operating life, the PC-7 aircrafts have today been replaced with the modern and more advanced PC-7MkII.
The PC-7MkII program, which began in April 2011 consisted of the 5 aircrafts, the associated logistic support and spares package, an advanced computer based training system and the required pilot and technician conversion training in Switzerland and Botswana.
Major General Mashinyana explained that the decision to procure the newer PC-7 MkII was due to the rapid changes in technological advancements. Mashinyana is of the view that 22 years without upgrading key aircraft systems would have inevitably led to obsolescence.
Mashinyana said that they had to determine the most cost-effective course of action between upgrading and procurement of the newer PC-7 MkII.
“The PC7 MkII offers automation of data and information presented ergonomically in a glass cockpit to enhance precision in handling and ensuring safer flying,” said Mashinyana.
According to the Chairman of Pilatus, Oscar Schwenk, who flew into Botswana for the handover ceremony, a review of the PC-7 indicates that more than 28 000 hours were flown and more than 70 000 landings have been recorded.
Schwenk said that he believes that this successful selection of the new trainer aircraft was founded on the established relationship between them, the excellent track record of the PC-7, and a proven product such as the PC-7 MkII of which more than 160 aircrafts have been sold.
“The new PC-7 MkII aircraft has improved performance, a more powerful engine and is fitted with ejection seats and a modern glass cockpit which enables the BDF to train its pilots to the highest and latest standards. In addition, the aircraft is also configured with the latest technology search and rescue equipment to allow the continuation of this important task,” said Schwenk.
He added that all five new aircrafts were delivered four months earlier than originally planned due to the acceleration of the schedule on request of the Air Arm. The aircrafts were flown from Switzerland to Botswana in September 2012.