Post WW2 Aicraft »

CT-4 Airtrainer - Fully Aerobatic Ad Initio Trainer

The PAC CT-4 Airtrainer is a low-wing single-engine aircraft originally designed by the forerunner of New Zealand's Pacific Aerospace Corporation in the 1970s. Designed as a basic trainer aircraft for military pilots it's known for its excellent handling and rugged characteristics. Used extensively by Royal New Zealand Air Force, the type was also exported and used by the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force.

The Pacific Aerospace CT-4E was a mainstay of the Royal New Zealand Air Force since the early 1990's when it replaced the earlier CT-4A and B models then in use.  Photo: © Historical Aviation Film Unit

Flying the New Zealand built CT-4 Air Trainer, the Royal New Zealand Air Force's "Red Checkers" aerobatic team always The RNZAF's display aerobatic team, the 'Red Checkers' was initially formed in the late 1960's and was made up of volunteer members (instructors) from the Air Force’s Central Flying School. Between 1967 to 1973 the group flew the Air Force's North American T-6 Harvard trainers, however, when the oil crisis of 1973 occurred the team was retired in order to conserve fuel.

When the team was eventually re-formed in 1980, the New Zealand designed and built Airtrainers had become the standard RNZAF primary trainer, and this type was used by the Checkers until 2016 when the team was finally retired and that same time that the CT-4s were being retired from active service. The current RNZAF display team is known as the 'Black Falcons', and they fly the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II aircraft which started to enter service in 2016.

For several years during the 1980's the production of Airtrainers ceased, although in theory the type remained available for orders. In 1991, in an attempt to win a lucrative United States Air Force 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. Neither of these variants was successful in winning the USAF contract, but they did attarct the attention of the RNZAF who ordered 13 of the E-model in in 1998. Eventually the Royal Thai Air Force purchased a further 16 CT-4E's.

Take a ride with the Royal New Zealand Air Force's Red Checkers aerobatic display team.

The Red Checkers were known for their precision flying and tight formation maneuvers, and the CT-4 proved to be an ideal aircraft for the team as its agile handling and responsive controls allowed for intricate maneuvers and tight formation flying. The aircraft's simple and robust design also makes it easy to maintain—an important consideration for a military aerobatic team required to keep their aircraft in top condition for frequent performances.

Two of the Checkers perform their renown 'Mirror Formation'.   Photo © 2007 Les Bushell (Image Supplied)

The Red Checkers fly their routine at a New Zealand airshow in the early '00s.

Share This Story :

More Stories and Video Clips:

There's More Exclusive Content On Historical Machines TV

HMTV is our advert-free streaming video channel which features an awesome array of video and long form documentary material which is not available elsewhere. Sign up for a free trial and enjoy the significant and varied range of material we have on offer...

Please consider subscribing to HMTV, or buy us a drink to support our historical (story and film) preservation endeavours.

Comment Form is loading comments...