Pilot's Interviews 02.10.2017

Test Pilot PC-12 NG

Antti Rautio’s log book may read like a dream, but his flights are all for real! He started out as a skydiver, then enrolled in the Finnish Air Force (FINAF) and finally ended up in the cockpit of a hornet. Antti’s most recent challenge is the PC-12 NG, which he currently flies as a test pilot. Pilatus Aircraft Ltd

Antti, did you dream about aviation when you were a kid?
I remember dreaming of being an astronaut when I was ten – but it didn’t happen, as you can see.

What made you choose a career in aviation?
I was fascinated by the idea that flying with manoeuvrable aircraft allows you to experience freedom in a three dimensional way. Fighter jets interested me because they give the pilot a means of expressing himself in a slightly different, exclusive way.

How and when did your career in aviation start?
I started skydiving as a hobby at age 18 and I soon realised that aviation offered lots of interesting options. I started to “misuse” life-saving equipment and trained as a reserve parachute packer and rigger. I managed our drop-zone training parachutes and eventually earned some free jumps. I was in high school at that time, after which I applied to the Finnish Air Force as a voluntary conscript. I was accepted on the pilot training programme and graduated from elementary training with honours.

I see, “a talent was born”. You pursued your dreams further, I assume?
Yes, following that first milestone, I started my air force pilot career at the military academy in 1993 and graduated as a Flying Officer in 1997, becoming type certified as an F/A-18 Hornet pilot. That wasn’t too bad as achievements go, but still not as good as being an astronaut. My fighter pilot career continued until 2003 as an Operational Readiness and Instructor Pilot. I then applied for a place on the FINAF test pilot course – and was selected out of a group of ten! I was reassigned to the Flight Test Centre in 2004 to operate as a test pilot. I’ve flown different types of aircraft and been involved in many interesting programmes and projects since then. I’ve been privileged to fly with the Hornet for over 16 years, and with different Bae Hawk models for over 22 years. Ending up as a Development and Experimental Test Pilot is the closest I have come to my childhood dream.

But – is there more to your life than just flying? What else do you do in your life?
I’m very keen on sports of all kinds. My best marathon result is 3 hours, 22 minutes and 18 seconds. I’ve worked as a fitness instructor at local fitness centres for the past eight years, but I’m taking a break from instructing now to concentrate on competing in CrossFit. But I have to admit that my family is the most important thing in my life!

Now, let’s talk about aircraft again, and Pilatus in particular. What was the first aircraft you flew?
It was a Finnish elementary and basic trainer, the venerable L-70 Vinka, made by Valmet.

And what was the most unique and noteworthy aircraft you’ve flown in so far?
I would say the Fouga CM.170 Magister. It was a former FINAF jet trainer and we had a chance to fly it during our test pilot course. It felt like a glider with two small jet engines. It needed smooth, calm handling to fly it in a beautiful manner.

And now you also fly the Pilatus PC-12 NG. Is that how you became a Pilatus pilot?
Eight years ago, FINAF decided to buy six new PC-12 NGs for transport and liaison tasks. On completion of the production operations, three FINAF test pilots were dispatched to Stans to undergo the required type certification training. I was one of those three pilots and our task was to perform a thorough acceptance programme and verify the quality of new aircraft to be delivered to FINAF. This was a great opportunity for Pilatus to have their product benchmarked by professional military aviation standards. Since then we have worked in close and direct co-operation with Pilatus, benefitting from the excellent service provided by their dedicated and highly knowledgeable personnel.

How many hours on this type do you have today?
About 300 hours in total. Only about 50 hours a year due to many other ongoing projects.

What are the unique aspects, features and characteristics of the PC-12 NG?
I really like how Pilatus demonstrates its Swiss mentality and ideals in producing an aircraft with safe and very easy handling, all wrapped up with state-of-the-art flight management systems and excellent overall performance.

Tell us about your average day when flying the Pilatus PC-12 NG?
My work is generally concerned with conducting acceptance flights following maintenance or repair work.

What does your immediate future look like? Will you continue to fly the PC-12 NG or will you transition to a different type?
I’ll carry on doing test flights on PC-12 NGs, but I’ll also manage or participate in other very interesting upcoming FINAF programmes and test projects.

We started by talking about dreams. What aircraft would you like to fly in the future?
I think you already know the answer – the Pilatus PC-24, of course. It’s an amazing, very interesting concept and I’m totally confident it will be a great success!

That’s what we think, too! Thank you, Antti, for some ground time and the insight into your pilot’s career. All the best for your future flying and, as you well know – dream big, then make your dream come true!