Pilatus Aircraft Ltd was established in December of 1939, this at the start of World War 2 (1939-1945), in neutral Switzerland. The company was originally set up to provide logistical and maintenance support for the Swiss Air Force amidst the fighting in Europe. From these modest beginnings, the company has survived - and blossomed - to become one of the primary suppliers of first-rate basic trainer aircraft for both military and civilian sectors. The PC-7, debuting in 1978, is one of the success stories for the company with over 600 examples sold and operators spanning the globe, from Angola and Austria to the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
A first-flight was had by a prototype, the aircraft based largely on the earlier P-3 design of 1956, on April 12th, 1966. Series introduction officially occurred on August 18th, 1978. A crash during development led to the program being suspended until 1973, hence the large gap between prototype and series start.
The PC-7 utilizes a proven, if entirely conventional, arrangement. The fuselage is smoothly contoured with slab sides, the engine fitted to a forward compartment and the tail section tapering aft. The crew of two sit in tandem over midships. The canopy is a long-running piece with light framing offering the best possible views of the action ahead, and surrounding, the aircraft. Flight controls are redundant across both cockpit seats so the student and instructor can share control of the aircraft as necessary. The wing mainplanes are fitted low along the fuselage sides. The tail unit incorporates a single rudder and low-set horizontal stabilizers. The undercarriage if of a wheeled tricycle arrangement and fully-retractable into the design.
Dimensions include a length of 32 feet, a wingspan of 34 feet and a height of 10.5 feet. Empty weight is 3,000lb against an MTOW of 6,000lb. Power is from a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-25 series turboprop engine developing 550 horsepower (model dependent).
Performance includes a maximum speed of 255 miles per hour with a range out to 1,635 miles and a service ceiling nearing 33,000 feet. Rate-of-climb is 2,150 feet-per-minute.
Beyond their given basic training role, the PC-7 has also been pressed into service as a light strike / counter-insurgency platform (six hardpoints are featured and collectively rated for 2,295lb of ordnance). This was the case with Iraqi Air Force PC-7s used against neighboring Iran in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. Other operators, such as Chad, Guatemala and Mexico, have also outfitted these small airplanes with munitions - typically machine gun pods, rocket pods and conventional drop ("dumb") bombs - showcasing the versatility of these flying machines. Beyond the training and strike roles, the PC-7 is also a durable aerobatics, high-performance platform.
The PC-7 designation marks the original two-seat trainers carrying the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-25A series engine of 500 horsepower. The PC-7 Mk II then emerged, to fulfill a South African Air Force (SAAF) requirement, as an improved form relying on the PC-9 product's framework and avionics fit coupled to the PC-7's original wing mainplanes (which support underwing ordnance). This model is powered by the Pratt & Whitney PT6A-25C engine of 700 horsepower output which is billed as a economically-friendly engine when compared to other turboprop trainers. The engine drives a four-bladed aluminum Hartzell propeller unit.
The NCPC-7 designation is used for Swiss Air Force aircraft based on a modernized PC-7 model with all-glass cockpit and all-modern avionics.