Since as far back as the 1970s, the PT6 engine has been the engine of choice for many military trainers, starting with the 750 shaft horsepower (shp) class PT6A-25A family, which powered the Beechcraft T-34, Pilatus PC-7 and Embraer Tucano. Engine power grew as the needs of the market changed, upgrading with the PC-9 and later the KAI KT-1, both powered by the 950 shp PT6A-62. Then came the higher power class PT6A-68 powering the JPATS/T-6 Texan II in the early 1990s and 2000s, followed by the PT6A-68B powering the Pilatus PC-21 and the PT6A-68C powering the Embraer Super Tucano.
With design modifications enabling aerobatic capabilities and, on some models, single lever “jet-like” controls on PT6 engine trainer installations, pilots in training can develop the necessary skills by flying more time on turboprop aircraft before transitioning to much more expensive jet aircraft.
Pratt & Whitney Canada’s largest trainer fleet dates back to the 1990s, when the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) was awarded by the U.S. Air Force and Navy. In what was billed the “trainer contract of the century” because it called for more than 700 aircraft, JPATS was awarded to Beechcraft (then known as Raytheon Aircraft), which had proposed a modified Beech/Pilatus PC-9 aircraft (subsequently designated the T-6A Texan II) powered by a single PT6A-68 engine delivering a flat-rated 1,100 shp.
“The selection of a turboprop aircraft came as something of a surprise to the industry, because it had been assumed that a jet would win,” says Michael Perodeau, Vice President, Corporate Aviation and Military Programs. “But the performance of the PT6A-68 series engine is such that most pilots feel they are actually flying a jet.” This capability has been taken even further with the latest trainer offerings from OEMs, including the Pilatus PC-21, Embraer Super Tucano, Beechcraft AT-6 and Turkish Aircraft Industries (TAI) Hürkus.
“The PT6 engine’s solid reputation as a durable and reliable power plant is key to its success in the military trainer market,” says Perodeau. “This is especially important given that the majority of these aircraft rely on a single engine. With 50 years of proven PT6 design and operational history, military organizations have learned to count on P&WC’s engine dependability and service support for meeting their strict reliability and safety standards.”
With their unique capabilities, PT6 engine-powered aircraft will continue to be a leading choice for the training of future generations of aspiring pilots.
OEM and Aircraft:
Beechcraft: T-6A Texan II, AT-6
Embraer: Super Tucano EMB314
Pilatus: PC-7 MKII, PC-9, PC-21
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI): KAI KT-1 Woongbi
Turkish Aerospace Industries: TAI Hürkus