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The first ever CT/4E model Airtrainer circa 1994
Role Primary trainer
Manufacturer Pacific Aerospace
First flight February 23, 1972
Primary users Royal New Zealand Air Force
Royal Thai Air Force

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.


A CT/4E in the livery of the Singapore Youth Flying Club
A CT/4E in the livery of the Singapore Youth Flying Club


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.

A CT/4B of the RNZAF in the late 1980s
A CT/4B of the RNZAF in the late 1980s

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.


  • CT/4A: Powered by a 210 hp Continental piston engine. The initial production design, 78 built for RTAF and RAAF and civilian operators.
  • CT/4B: Powered by either a 210 hp or 225 hp Continental piston engine.
    A version of the CT/4A with minimal changes to suit the RNZAF, 38 built for RNZAF, RTAF and civilian operators.
    This is also used by the RAAF, through the BAe College in Tamworth, as a basic trainer and for the Pilot Selection process
  • CT/4C: A turboprop variant, rebuilt from an RNZAF CT/4B, that never reached production. After a successful flight-test programme and unsuccessful marketing programme the prototype CT/4C was returned to CT/4B standard.
  • CT/4D: (aka CT/4CR) A proposed retractable undercarriage model that has never flown.
  • CT/4E: Powered by a 300 hp Lycoming and with a three-blade propeller, the CT/4E was a significant update designed to compete for a USAF requirement.
    Though not selected by the U.S. the type has been ordered by the RTAF, RNZAF and Singapore. It is the current production model, with 37 built to date.
  • CT/4F: A 300 hp version offered for an RAAF requirement, in conjunction with Raytheon Australia, with glass cockpit avionics from the Hawker Beechcraft T-6B T-6 Texan II, underwing hardpoints, air conditioning, and centre of gravity moved rear. One demonstrator built in May 2007. [1]


 Hong Kong
  • (A single CT/4E)
 New Zealand

Specifications (CT/4)

Data from Jane's Aircraft Recognition Guide

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2: student, instructor
  • Length: 23 ft 2 in (7 m)
  • Wingspan: 26 ft 0 in (7.9 m)
  • Height: 8 ft 6 in (2.6 m)
  • Wing area: 129 ft (11.98 m)
  • Empty weight: 1,720 lb (780 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 2,650 lb (1,202 kg)
  • Powerplant: 1× Teledyne Continental IO-360-HB9 piston engine, 210 hp (157 kW)





  1. ^ Rendall, David (1995). Jane's Aircraft Recognition Guide. Glasgow, UK: HarperCollinsPublishers. p. 505. ISBN 0-00-4709802. 
  • Ewing, Ross and MacPherson, Ross The History of New Zealand Aviation, Heinemann, 1986
  • Knowles, Alan, New Zealand Aircraft, IPL Books, Wellington, 1990

External links

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Published in July 2009.

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