Aeroplane-maker Pilatus is recognized the world over today for its excellent lineup of lightweight aircraft used in both military training and General Aviation circles. The concern received its start in December of 1939, just as World War 2 (1939-1945) was gaining traction across Europe, in Stans, Switzerland. In the early years, the company was used to support the Swiss Air Force and undertook the eventually-abandoned "P-1" single-seat trainer project.
In 1942, Pilatus was granted a Swiss Air Force contract to cover a two-seat monoplane trainer of all-modern design. The subsequent work resulted in the "P-2" which flew for the first time in prototype form (powered by an Argus engine) on April 27th, 1945. In its finalized form, it was accepted and adopted in number by the Swiss Air Force just as World War 2 was drawing to a close. First examples were taken into service in 1946.
The aircraft was largely conventional for the period: it sat its crew of two in tandem under a long-running, heavily-framed canopy at midships (the cockpit featured a dual-control scheme). The engine was positioned at the nose in the usual way while the empennage was tapered, terminating in a single rudder fin and sporting low-mounted horizontal planes. The mainplanes were set low along the sides of the fuselage and moved slightly ahead of midships for balance and control. The "tail-dragger" undercarriage was retractable (the main legs collapsing inwards towards fuselage centerline). Construction of the aircraft involved a mix of metal and wood for structural components and canvas skinning.
The aircraft featured a two-bladed Argus constant-speed propeller unit at its nose and this was driven by an Argus As 410A-2 inverted V12 air-cooled piston engine outputting 370 horsepower. Performance specs included a maximum speed of 210 miles-per-hour, a cruising speed near 205 mph, a range out to 540 miles, and a rate-of-climb equal to 1,280 feet-per-minute.
Dimensions resulted in an overall length of 36 feet, a wingspan measuring 29.8 feet, and a height of 8.9 feet.
The initial P-2 examples, the prototype, was formally designated as "P-2-01". The "P-2-02" served as a static test air frame while the "P-2-03" prototype arrived with its Hispano-Suiza HS-12Mb (upright) V water-cooled engine sporting an oversized radiator (set in a ventral position) thereafter. The "P-2-04" was the first of the line to be armed (primarily for weapons training) and based in the work completed on the earlier P-2-03. The "P-2-05" was developed as an unarmed version of which 26 examples were sold to the Swiss Air Force. The "P-2-06" followed (with the armament suite in place) in 26 additional examples taken on by the Swiss Air Force. Armed versions sported a single machine gun (seated over the engine) and ranks for mounting practice drop bombs and aerial rockets.
Despite their World War 2-era roots, the P-2 managed an operational flying existence into 1981 at which point the stock was sold off to private buyers. Many continue to fly in these hands and make regular appearances at airshows.
Beyond the Swiss Air Force, the P-2 was also operated by the Haitian Air Force for a time.