The Pacific Aerospace Corporation CT/4 Airtrainer series are all-metal construction, single-engine, two place side-by-side seating, fully aerobatic, piston engined, basic training aircraft manufactured in Hamilton, New Zealand.
PAC's predecessor, AESL, derived the CT/4 from the earlier 4 seat prototype Victa/AESL Aircruiser, itself an upgrade of the basic Victa/AESL Airtourer, production of which had started in Australia in the 1960s then shifted across the Tasman, to New Zealand, where 87 were manufactured in Hamilton in the 1970s.
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 ZK-DGY first flew on February 23, 1972. Two prototypes were built, at which point 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 Australian Air Force. The 62nd 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 the Royal Rhodesian Air Force (14). The Rhodesian aircraft were embargoed by the New Zealand government after being built and spent 6 years in storage before being sold to the Royal Australian Air Force. This caused financial difficulties for the manufacturer, which lead 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 USAF contract, two new developments of the CT/4 airframe were flown—the CT/4D turboprop and the CT/4E with a 300 hp piston engine, a 3-bladed propellor, 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 RNZAF and the RTAF and was formerly used by the RAAF (until primary training was sub contracted). In Australia the type is commonly known as the plastic parrot, (a reference to its 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. Some new-build CT/4s have also been produced for such private owners.
Not counting the converted Aircruiser prototype, a total of 153 aircraft had been made by January 2005 when low volume production was continuing for the RTAF and Singapore.
Data from Jane's Aircraft Recognition Guide
Published in July 2009.
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