The Pacific Aerospace Corporation CT/4 Airtrainer series is an all-metal-construction, single-engine, two-place with side-by-side seating, fully aerobatic, piston-engined, basic training aircraft manufactured in Hamilton, New Zealand.
|RAAF CT/4 in flight|
|Role||Fixed-wing Primary trainer|
|National origin||New Zealand|
|First flight||23 February 1972|
|Retired||Royal New Zealand Air Force, 4 December 2014|
|Primary users||Royal New Zealand Air Force (historical)|
Royal Australian Air Force
BAE Systems Australia
Royal Thai Air Force
|Developed from||Victa Aircruiser|
Pacific Aerospace Corporation predecessor, AESL, derived the CT/4 from the earlier four-seat prototype Victa Aircruiser, itself a development of the original Victa Airtourer two-seat light tourer, 172 of which had been built in Australia from 1961 to 1966 before the rights to the Airtourer and Aircruiser were sold to the New Zealand company AESL, which built a total of 80 Airtourers at its factory at Hamilton in the 1970s.
In 1971, the Royal Australian Air Force had a requirement for the replacement of the CAC Winjeels used as basic trainers at RAAF Point Cook. AESL's chief designer, P W C Monk, based the new aircraft on the stronger airframe of the Aircruiser. Externally the CT/4 differs from the Airtourer and Aircruiser designs by its larger engine and the bubble canopy—designed in an aerofoil shape. Structurally there are changes to the skin and upgrading of the four longerons in the fuselage from sheet metal to extrusions.
The CT/4 prototype first flew on 23 February 1972. Two prototypes were built, and on 1 March 1973 AESL became New Zealand Aerospace Industries Ltd. Production was launched against an order for 24 from the Royal Thai Air Force. The type was then selected as the primary trainer for the Royal Australian Air Force. The 64th machine was the first CT/4B, with detail improvements, mostly in instrumentation. The CT/4B was ordered by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (19) and 14 were ordered ostensibly by a Swiss company, Breco Trading Co, on behalf of a Swiss flying club. Breco was discovered to be a sanctions busting front for the Rhodesian Air Force. These aircraft were then embargoed by the New Zealand government after being built and spent six years in storage before being sold to the Royal Australian Air Force. This caused financial difficulties for the manufacturer, which led to the firm re-emerging as the Pacific Aerospace Corporation.
For several years Airtrainer production ceased, although the type remained nominally available for orders. In 1991, in an attempt to win a lucrative United States Air Force contract, two new developments of the CT/4 airframe were flown—the CT/4C turboprop and the CT/4E with a 300 hp piston engine, a three-bladed propeller, 100 mm longer fuselage and wing attachments moved rearwards. Neither attracted production orders at the time but, in 1998, CT/4E production commenced with orders for the Royal New Zealand Air Force for 13 and Royal Thai Air Force for 16. Both nations used the CT/4E to replace their earlier model CT/4A and B.
The CT/4 proved to be an agile and capable military training aircraft. It is currently in use with the RTAF and was formerly used by the RAAF (until primary training was sub contracted) and by the Royal New Zealand Air Force until replaced by the Beechcraft T-6C. In Australia the type is commonly known as the plastic parrot, (a reference to its original gaudy RAAF colour scheme—the aircraft is, in fact, of all-aluminium construction). Many former RAAF and RNZAF aircraft are owned by private pilots and by companies contracted to provide training for airforces or airlines. One new-build CT/4E was built for a private Israeli owner in 1999. Two CT/Es were delivered to the Singapore Youth Flying Club in 2002. In 2004 and 2005 a further 8 CT/4Es were delivered to the Royal Thai Air Force to bring the total of RTAF CT/4Es to 24. The last CT/4 produced so far has been a CT/4E built for use as a company demonstrator, and in 2013 it was shown at the Airshow at Durban, South Africa.
A total of 155 aircraft had been built by 2008.
Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004; PAC Pilot's Operating Handbook and Flight Manual for the CT4-E Airtrainer
CT-4B at Tauranga, New Zealand, 2006
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