Astra gets a new lease of life

Swiss company Pilatus has been awarded a R400 million contract to upgrade the cockpits of 35 PC7 MkII Astra basic trainers for the South African Air Force.
SAAF chief Lt Gen Carlo Gagiano says the money is allocated and the project is running. “We’re very excited by this; it will give that aircraft another lease on life.”
The SAAF bought 60 of the trainers in February 1993 with deliveries starting in October the next year.
The SA Air force last year told Parliament that the upgrade was needed because “the central cockpit display started discolouring to the point where most of the displays were becoming unreadable. 

“These displays were supplied in the early 1990’s by a now defunct local company, and have become obsolete to the extent that they have to be replaced. Subsequent to the initial estimates, further engineering studies were conducted and it was concluded that the only lasting solution to the Astra avionics obsolescence problems was a total cockpit upgrade,” the flying service said in a written reply to a question by Democratic Alliance MP Hendrik Schmidt.

“The multi-source tender was submitted to all interested parties, and the most cost-effective offer was received from Pilatus Switzerland, the original manufacturer of the aircraft, for an amount of R400 million; thus making Pilatus Switzerland the preferred bidder.
“The upgrade will extend the lifespan of the Astra with a further 20 years.