By Rathindra Kuruwita
All aircraft used by the Air Force to train pilots were purchased in either the year 2001 or 2018, Air Force Spokesperson Group Captain Dushan Wijesinghe told The Island, commenting on claims by SLFP MP Dayasiri Jayasekera, alleging that the crashed PT-6 aircraft should have been in an aero museum.
“The aircraft was first manufactured in the late 1950s for the use of the Chinese air force. However, the planes that we use to train pilots were purchased in 2001 and 2018. This is a well-recognised basic pilot training aircraft. Countries like the United States, Australia, and South Africa use the plane for domestic operations including aero-acrobatics and adventure sports,” he said.
Wijesinghe said the aircraft was first purchased by the Air Force in 2001. Ten aircraft were purchased and all of them were manufactured in the year 2000.
“We bought two more in 2009, and they were manufactured in the same year.
We purchased another six in 2018, and they too were manufactured in the same year. We have 18 PT-6 aircraft, and only three have crashed in the last 22 years. These occurred in 2007, 2020, and this week. This is a plane that is widely used across the world. Sri Lankan air force has an aerial acrobatics team called Blue Eagles and they also use PT-6 planes we purchased in 2018,” he said.
The service life of these aircraft is 4000 flying hours, Wijesinghe said. The crashed aircraft had only been used for 857 hours and 22 minutes, he said. The plane was manufactured on 16 May 2018, and Sri Lanka has been using it since 17 October 2018, the Air Force spokesman said. The service life of the aircraft engine is 2,400 flying hours, and it is overhauled every 600 flying hours, he said.
“Even the planes we bought in 2001 have been used only for about 2,800 flying hours. There is no problem with the PT-6 aircraft. We do not buy ancient aircraft. According to government procurement procedures, we don’t even buy used aircraft, everything we buy is brand new,” he said.