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Airbus remains optimistic about sales opportunities of the PZL-130 Orlik on new export markets, as the manufacturer continues delivery of modernized trainer aircraft to the Polish Air Force. “The upgrade of the Orlik is basically structured in three different contracts,” said Manuel Heredia Ortiz, CEO, Airbus Poland S.A., adding that between 2016-2017, when the Polish Air Force launched the programme to modernize its fleet of PZL-130 Orlik trainer aircraft, the country operated merely sixteen locally designed trainers in the TC-II configuration.

According to Ortiz, the first contract set the guidelines for the upgrade of the “fleet that was already in operation to a new version, which we call TC-II Advanced.” This was basically focused on “an upgrade of the avionics to make it compatible with Western aircraft.”

Under the second contract “the Polish Air Force ordered a full flight simulator in this configuration. (…)  This simulator has the possibility to do formation flights. So, there is a station for a student and a second one for the flight instructor, who flies a second aircraft.”

According to Ortiz “the third contract was related to the twelve aircraft that were in storage and they were in a very old version, the TC-I.” These aircraft haven’t been used for training purposes for a long time, therefore, they needed more extensive modernization works. “The contract called to take those twelve aircraft and make a full retrofit from TC-I to TC-II Advanced. This means assembling new wings, engines, propellers and of course all the new avionics that come with the TC-II Advanced.”

Ortiz stated that eleven aircraft from the original batch of sixteen trainers in the TC-II configuration have already been delivered.

“At the end of the year there will be only one aircraft remaining. (…) In regards to the dozen of more legacy Orlik, the first of them is already in the final stage of the modernization and we plan to commence deliveries in the Q4 2019.”

The head of Airbus Poland is also very optimistic about sales opportunities of the PZL-130 Orlik platform on export markets. “The export market is very important for us, as the manufacturer,” said Ortiz. “We have plans to go with the Orlik to the market and at the same time we are contacted by the customers, who approach us. For the next 5 years we see some prospects in Europe as well as in South Asia,” he added. “It is a very good moment, because this upgrade programme has been a perfect excuse to re-establish the final assembly line.”

The fact that the Polish Air Force will eventually operate the fleet of 28 PZL-130 Orlik TC-II Advanced trainers should work in favour of the manufacturer’s marketing campaign on export markets. “The message which we received from our prospective customers is that this [Orlik] is a European product, it’s not a paper aircraft and it provides a lot of certainty and a lot of confidence to prospective customers,” said Ortiz.

Michal Jarocki