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A large number of countries have decided that building a military trainer is their first step on the road to an indigenous defence industry. Many of these have been disappointed, either because their product was inferior to existing established designs from major manufacturers, or because the development costs escalated out of all proportion to the benefit, or both. The large range of countries in this list partly reflects this trend, but is perhaps influenced more by the fact that many air forces are keener to exhibit - or later, sell off - their trainers than they are their advanced combat aircraft!

The Promavia Jet Squalus (Latin for Shark) was designed by Italian engineer Dr Stelio Frati, and clearly shows the elegant stylish lines typical of his work. It was designed to the specification issued by the USAF for their abortive New Generation Trainer (NGT) contest. It is a two seater, powered by an Allied Signal TFE109 turbofan of 1,330lb static thrust. This gives it a typical cruising speed of 320mph and range of 800 miles. It is 30 feet 8 inches long, with a wing span of 29 feet 8 inches. It first flew in 1987. Only two were built before the NGT contest was cancelled. The design rights have now been taken over by Phoenix Aircraft, who have re-engined it (in line with original design intentions) with an 1,800lb Williams FJ44 and are marketing it as the Phoenix Fanjet.

Top: Farnborough, September 1988

Lower: Farnborough, September 1986.


The Embraer EMB312 Tucano was initially designed as a trainer for the Brazilian air force, with whom it is known as the AT27. It first flew in August 1980, and demonstrated excellent performance. Top speed is 280mph and range 1,145 miles. It is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A turboprop of 750shp. It is 9.88m long and has a wing span of 10.97m. Gross weight is 3,175Kg (7,000lb).

The RAF selected the Tucano, re-engined with a Garrett TPE331 turboprop, as the replacement for the Jet Provost. RAF aircraft have been built by Short Brothers (now a division of Bombardier), in Belfast. All told, several hundred have been built for a wide variety of customers.

This company demonstrator was at Farnborough in September 1982.


The De Havilland Canada DHC1 Chipmunk first flew in May 1946. It is a delightful handling aircraft, and was instantly popular; over 1,000 were eventually built, and operated by several air forces. Power comes from a 145hp De Havilland Gipsy Major engine. I is a fairly light aircraft (gross weight 2,000lb), with top speed of 138mph and range of 300 miles. Its main advantage is its superb handling, which makes it an excellent training platform. It also has the `distinction' of being the first aircraft in which David took the controls - as a cadet in the Air Training Corps in the 1970s!

Used by the RAF as its standard primary trainer from the 1950s, most of the Chipmunks were sold to private operators from the 1970s onwards. The top picture shows Chipmunks of the Army's basic fixed wing flight, still in military service, at Middle Wallop in July 1986. The middle picture shows a Chipmunk in Canadian air force markings, barnstorming at Old Warden in Summer 2005. The lower picture shows an exotically painted Chipmunk at Wellesbourne Mountford in July 2007.

Chile's Enaer Pillan (Demon) was based on the PA28-236 version of the Piper Cherokee, with a different cockpit and upgraded systems. Not surprisingly it was intended mainly for the Chilean air force, with whom it is known as the T-35. Its 300hp Lycoming engine gives it a maximum speed of 190mph and range of 750 miles. It first flew in March 1981. Wing span is 8.5 metres and length a very similar 8.4m. It is operated by Chile, Spain (where it is known as the E.26), Panama and Paraguay. All told, 145 have been built.

This company demonstrator was at Farnborough in September 1986.


The Nanchang CJ-6 is essentially a Yakovlev YAK18, but with a different engine (285hp Quizhou Huosei radial), undercarriage, tail and canopy. Dimensions are very similar: length 27 feet 51/2 inches, wing span 33 feet 4 inches, and maximum take-off weight 3,080lb. It is fast for a radial engined aircraft, with top speed of 230mph and a range of 450 miles. Since its first flight in 1962, about 1,800 have been built. Several are now leaving military service and finding eager buyers in the civil markets, especially in the USA and Britain, where its superb aerobatic capabilities combine with low purchase price to make it a very attractive proposition. The only real downsides are awkward spares availability and sometimes undocumented history of individual aircraft.

This one was at Cranfield, date unknown.

Czechoslovakia (Czech Republic)

The Aero L29 Delfin (NATO codename Maya) first flew in April 1959, and was to become the standard trainer for all the Warsaw Pact air forces (except Poland, who used their own TS-11 Iskra) until succeeded by the L-39. Powered by a single Motorlet M-701 turbojet giving 1,960lb thrust, it has a top speed of 405mph and range of 400 miles. It is quite compact for a jet, being 35 feet 5 inches long with a wing span of 33 feet 9 inches. Gross weight is 7,230lb. An amazing 3,500 were built.

A few are finding their way to civil operators in the West, including this Estonian registered example which visited Cranfield in 1998.

The Aero L39 Albatros was the successor to the L-29 Delfin as the standard jet trainer for the Warsaw Pact air forces. It bears a passing resemblance to the British Hawk, but predates it by some time, first flying in November 1968. At 40 feet 5 inches, it is longer than the L-29, though with a shorter 31 foot wingspan. Powered by a single 3,800lb Walter Titan turbofan, it can reach 485mph and has a range (with long range fuel tanks) of 1,000 miles. Gross weight is 11,600lb. As with the L-29, it was built in huge numbers, more than 2,800 having been completed before production ended. As well as its normal training role, it can carry a variety of weapons on four underwing hardpoints for use as a ground attack aircraft.

Many are now flying with civil operators, including this one seen at Cranfield in 1996.

The Aero L-159 ALCA is a major update of the L-39, which first flew in August 1997. It is slightly longer (41 foot 8 inches) thanks to the extra space needed for improved avionics, the wing span (31' 3") being virtually the same. The more powerful (6,280lb) Honeywell F124 engine gives it a top speed of 577mph, while gross weight (those extra avionics again, extra hardpoints, and more fuel) has increased to 17,600lb. Extra fuel increases the range to over 1,500 miles. Only about 70 of these very capable aircraft have been built so far, all for the Czech forces. 

Czech Air Force, Fairford, July 2007


The Gomhouria was a license-built version of the 1939 German Bucker Bu181 Bestmann, built in Egypt's Heliopolis Aircraft Works. Normally powered by a 105hp Hirth engine, it has a top speed of 135mph and range of 500 miles. It is a typically long winged design, as were most monoplanes of the era, being 25 feet 6 inches long with a wing span of 34 feet 5 inches. Maximum weight is 1,650lb.

Few survive; this rare example visited Cranfield in 1996.


The Valmet Viima is an elegant biplane trainer built specifically for the Finnish air force, having its first flight in 1936. It has a close resemblance to the German Focke-Wulf Steiglitz. Power is from a 150hp Siemens SH14 radial engine. Only 24 were built. This rare flying example was based for many years at High Wycombe, and was used in several films to depict early aircraft.

This picture was taken at Wroughton in 1988.

Valmet re-entered the trainer market in the 1980s with the L-70 Miltrainer, otherwise known as the Vinka (Finnish for Blast), which was later developed into the L-90 Redigo. Looking not unlike the Italian SF-260, it is a three seater, powered by a 200hp engine, giving it a cruising speed of 125mph over a range of 500 miles. The L-70 first flew in July 1975. Only about 30 have been made (not counting L-90s). It is 24 feet 5 inches long with a wing span of 31 feet 2 inches and maximum weight of 2,750lb.

This demonstrator was at the Farnborough air show in 1988.