PAC CT/4 Airtrainer

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New Zealand CT-4A Airtrainer inflight Vabre.jpg
RAAF CT-4 in flight
Role Primary trainer
Manufacturer Pacific Aerospace
First flight 23 February 1972
Retired Royal New Zealand Air Force December 4th 2014
Status Active not in production
Primary users Royal Thai Air Force
Royal Australian Air Force, BAE Flight Training Australia
Produced 1972-2005
Number built 155
Developed from Victa Aircruiser

The Pacific Aerospace Corporation CT/4 Airtrainer series are all-metal construction, single-engine, two-place with 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 four-seat prototype Victa Aircruiser, itself a development of the original Victa Airtourer two-seat light tourer, 172 of which had been built in Australia from 1961 to 1966 before the rights to the Airtourer and Aircruiser were sold to the New Zealand company AESL, which built a total of 80 Airtourers at their factory at Hamilton in the 1970s.[1]

In 1971, the Royal Australian Air Force had a requirement for the replacement of the CAC Winjeels used as basic trainers at RAAF Point Cook. AESL's chief designer, P W C Monk, based the new aircraft on the stronger airframe of the Aircruiser.[2] 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 first flew on February 23, 1972.[2] Two prototypes were built, and on the 1st of March 1973 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 Royal Australian Air Force. The 64th 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 14 were ordered ostensibly by a Swiss company, Breco Trading Co, on behalf of a Swiss flying club. Breco was discovered to be a sanctions busting front for the Rhodesian Air Force. These aircraft were then embargoed by the New Zealand government after being built and spent six 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/4C turboprop and the CT/4E with a 300 hp piston engine, a three-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

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. One new-build CT/4E was built for a private Israeli owner in 1999. Two CT/Es were delivered to the Singapore Youth Flying Club in 2002. In 2004 and 2005 a further 8 CT/4Es were delivered to the Royal Thai Air Force to bring the total of RTAF CT/4s to 24. The last CT/4 produced so far has been a CT/4E built for use as a company demonstrator, and in 2013 it was shown at the Airshow at Durban, South Africa.

A total of 155 aircraft had been built by 2008.


  • 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 Australian Defence Force Basic Flying Training School 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]
  • CT/4G: A CT/4E based aircraft with a Garmin G1000 glass cockpit.


  • (A single CT/4E)

Former Operators[edit]

 New Zealand

Specifications (CT4E)[edit]

Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004[3]

General characteristics




  1. ^ Air International February 1976, pp. 70–71.
  2. ^ a b Air International February 1976, p. 71.
  3. ^ Jackson 2003, p. 324.
  • Bennett, John; "Aircraft of the ADF, A19 AESL CT/4 Airtrainer", Australian Aviation, August 1994, pp 57–59.
  • Ewing, Ross and MacPherson, Ross The History of New Zealand Aviation, Heinemann, 1986.
  • Jackson, Paul. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 2003–2004. Coulsdon, UK: Jane's Information Group, 2003. ISBN 0-7106-2537-5.
  • Knowles, Alan, New Zealand Aircraft, IPL Books, Wellington, 1990
  • "The Airtrainer Story". Air International, Vol. 10 No. 2, February 1976. pp. 70–72.
  • Wilson, Stewart, "Tiger Moth, CT-4, Wackett And Winjeel In Australian Service", Aerospace Publications, 1994, pp. 163–194.
  • Air, International, "CT-4E trainers retired" Key Publishing LTD, 2015, PP. 16

External links[edit]