The Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) officially accepted ownership of the new pilot training aircraft, the Beechcraft T-6C Texan II in a ceremony at Base Ohakea this afternoon.
Currently there are four T-6C aircraft at Ohakea; two arrived in August and two earlier this month. In total RNZAF will own 11 aircraft, the remaining seven will be delivered in tranches by mid-2015.
Chief of Air Force, Air Vice-Marshal Mike Yardley said the handover marked a significant milestone in the Air Force’s pilot training program.
“The T-6C Texans are specialist military aircraft built for the purpose of training military pilots how to fly. The T-6C will allow us to train our pilots more efficiently as they’ll use the same aircraft for their Wings course, compared to the two types of aircraft currently used.
“We’ll begin the first trainee pilot Wings course on the T-6C at the start of 2016 and these trainees will graduate at the end of that year,” said Air Vice-Marshal Yardley.
The handover ceremony consisted of a flypast by the T-6C aircraft and a ceremonial ‘wash’ by the RNZAF fire trucks.
The aircraft have been delivered by the manufacturer Beechcraft Defence Systems. The formal handover of the aircraft follows the completion of maintenance training in New Zealand and pilot conversion courses in the United States.
The RNZAF’s popular aerobatic team the Red Checkers currently fly the CT-4E Airtrainer in their displays. The aerobatic team will fly the T-6C aircraft instead and a competition has been launched to rename the team to fit their new aircraft.
“Our aerobatic team is one of the main ways the public see the Air Force flying. I’m encouraging people to put their name suggestions forward on our Air Force Facebook page,” said Air Vice-Marshal Yardley.