In November 1997, Pilatus flew a modified PC-7 Mk.II in order to test improvements for a prospective next generation turboprop trainer. As a result of these tests, Pilatus elected to fund the development of a new training system in November 1998; development of the new trainer, designated as the PC-21, formally started in January 1999. The PC-21 would be developed and certified as a completely new training system, aimed at meeting future military customers’ specifications in terms of capability and life-cycle costs for the next three decades.
The Pilatus PC-21 is an advanced single-engine trainer aircraft; it is often referred to by Pilatus as being the “Twenty-first Century Trainer”. The type can be applied for various training capacities, including basic flying training, advanced flight training, full mission management training, and embedded simulation/emulation. In order to perform these functions, the aircraft possesses a powerful, flexible, and cost-effective integrated training system; providing sufficient ease of use for inexperienced pilots while posing greater challenge to advanced pilots. According to Pilatus, upon product launch, the PC-21 possessed “superior aerodynamic performance when compared with any other turboprop trainer on the market”
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and eraHardpoints: Provisions provided for 4× under-wing and 1× centerline external store stations, capable of mounting up to 1,150 kg (2,540 lb) of payload
The company has mostly produced aircraft for niche markets, in particular short takeoff and landing (STOL) aircraft as well as military training aircraft. During the 1950s and 1960s, Pilatus developed on a short takeoff and landing (STOL) light civil transport aircraft, the PC-6 Porter. During 1973, it was decided to restart work on the PC-7 programme; it entered production as the PC-7 Turbo Trainer. In 1979, Pilatus acquired Britten-Norman, constructor of the Britten-Norman Islander and Britten-Norman Defender aircraft. During the 1980s, it developed the PC-9, an improved derivative of the PC-7.