Dubbed the Plastic Parrot in Royal Australian Air Force service, the CT-4 Airtrainer was primarily designed as a military trainer, but is also in limited civilian use.
The CT-4 was developed from the Australian Victa Airtourer series (described separately). Victa had developed the four place Aircruiser (first flight in mid 1966) based on the Airtourer, but development work ceased and instead the production rights for the Aircruiser were purchased by Aero Engine Services Ltd (or AESL) of New Zealand in 1969, which already had the rights to the Airtourer series.
AESL made a number of changes to the basic Aircruiser design, including adding a new clamshell canopy, structural strengthening for aerobatic work, and stick controls, making it suitable for military basic training. The first such CT-4 Airtrainer flew on February 23 1972. This prototype was powered by a 157kW (210hp) Teledyne Continental IO-360-D engine.
On April 1 1973 AESL merged with Air Parts (NZ) Ltd as New Zealand Aerospace Industries Ltd. Delivery of the first production model, the CT-4A, started in October 1973. The CT-4A differed from the CT-4 prototype in having an IO-360-H engine, a longer cockpit canopy, a larger dorsal fin fairing, and some other improvements. Primary customers were the Australian, New Zealand and Thai air forces. The CT-4B was a version with some minor modifications for civil certification. Production by New Zealand (also known as NZAI) continued until 1977.
In 1990 Pacific Aerospace Corporation (the successor to NZAI) resumed production of the CT-4B against an order from the BAe/Ansett Flying College (later BAe Flight Training) in Tamworth, Australia, providing the impetus for further developments of the line.
A turboprop Allison 250 powered CT-4C (a conversion of an ex RAAF CT-4A) flew on January 21 1991, and a retractable undercarriage version, the CT-4CR was proposed but not built. Development of the 225kW (300hp) IO-540 powered CT-4E was aimed for the US Air Force's Enhanced Flight Screening competition. Thirty two CT-4Es have been built, including 13 for the Royal New Zealand Air Force to replace CT-4As (10 of which were refurbished and sold to British Aerospace Flight Training in Australia). Production is continuing.
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