This is how the T-35 Pillán, the great trainer of the Chilean Air Force, was born

It was 1982 and the Chilean aviation industry was taking its first steps, but possibly giant steps. Together with the T-36 ?? Halcón ??, national variant of the Spanish plane ?? C-101 ?? The most representative product was the T-35 ?? Pillan ?? Trainer.

Since General Pinochet took over government in 1973, Chile has faced isolation from abroad on many aspects of the country’s life. At the same time, its international military strategy must be based on three fronts, although the course of events in the region has obviously changed the situation: Argentina (due to the Beagle Channel litigation), Peru and Bolivia. A problematic framework for a nation of 750,000 km2, more than 11 million inhabitants and an average width in their area of ​​just over 150 km.

Obtaining modern military materials was difficult until relatively recently, and the level of national industry in this area was precarious. It is not surprising, then, that the armed forces have adopted efforts to strengthen the military industry as their own. And one of the results was Trainer Pillan, the pride of the Chilean Air Force, whose Commander in Chief, General Fernando Matthei, does not hesitate to confirm: We believe that there is no aircraft on the international market that can compete with the ?? Pillan ?? in price and general flight conditions.


The rapid development of fighter aircraft and their high operating costs make certain demands already in the initial phase, which is the basic training of pilots. The use of modern equipment is required that can perform acrobatic maneuvers and instrument flights and has a good cost-benefit ratio.

With this criterion, the Chilean Air Force looked for a solution to replace the experienced Beechcraft T-34 Mentor. It was desired that the aircraft in question had a tandem cockpit, that it was fully aerobatic, and that great importance was attached to operating costs. The international market was searched unsuccessfully for a device that covered all of these requirements without exclusions.

Photo: A missile container under the wing of the Pillán. This device, despite its lightness and basic purpose, carries a significant military burden.

The attempt to use the installed capacity of the Air Force itself, the technical preparation of its personnel and the experience gained in the assembly under license of the light aircraft PA-28-236 Dakota from the North American house Piper, was an agreement reached with this company a development of the Dakota, which was to be produced by the Maintenance Wing of the Chilean Air Force at El Bosque Base.

In fact, the column, in the planning, construction and test flights of which FACH engineers took part, received on the basis of the Dakota? Elements of various models from Piper’s diverse range of light aircraft. The first two prototypes were built in the USA, while the next three copies were sent to Chile in the form of elements to be assembled there, the rest were entirely manufactured in the country. The prototype first flown on March 6, 1981.


The arrangement of the cabin is, as I said, together with the rear seat raised forwards, which gives the instructor a better view, which I was able to check during the flight than I was the pillar during my help for the FlDA as a passenger. The arrangement of the instruments and equipment was designed in such a way that the student gets used to what he finds in combat aircraft. It essentially comprises an FM unit (Collins) with memory for frequency selection, intercom (Davis Clark), VOR (Collins), ADF (Collins), transponder (Collins), audio control (Collins) and built-in marker signal. like many other options also at the discretion of the customer. The cockpit is made in one piece, is made of acrylic material and offers excellent visibility.

Photo: aspect of the tandem cockpit where the back seat is higher than the previous one so the instructor can observe the student and the room.

The drive was entrusted to a six-cylinder Lycoming AEIO-540 engine with an output of 300 hp and a Hartzell HCC 3YR 1F / F three-blade propeller with a diameter of 1.93 meters. The oil and fuel systems are adapted for return flights without any time restrictions.

The undercarriage is a tricycle with a hydraulically operated retraction system and an emergency valve that can be operated manually in the event of a failure. To roll the aircraft on the ground, it is guided by the pedals that operate the nose wheel. The wheels have a built-in disc brake system that works hydraulically by pressing the pedal tips. Within the audible and visual alarms there is one that alerts you when the power has been reduced without getting off the train.

However, the cost efficiency sought has not adversely affected the features encoded in the table and compared with the two main counterparts: the French Epsilon from Aérospatìale and the Italian Siai Marchetti SF260 latest version, equipped with a turboprop (TP). I would also like to point out that it can withstand load factors between -3 and + 6G and that its cruising speed at 75 percent power is 298 km / h. (256 to 55 percent) and that rises to 1,828 m. In 4.7 minutes. Its radius of action is 1,333 km. It has a range of 4.4 hours at 75 percent power (5.65 at 55 percent).


It is correct that the Chilean Air Force does not have commercial infrastructure to be able to export this device, although I do not believe that this was one of their main objectives as the real purpose was to equip themselves with an aircraft of these characteristics. In fact, it is estimated that the FACh will receive about a hundred pillans, of which about 30 will be completed this year and the first few months of 1983.

Photo: General view of prototype 01 in a test flight by pilots of the Maintenance Wing (ALAMANT).

In any case, considering Piper’s worldwide network, given its qualities, it wouldn’t be impossible to sell it abroad. With this in mind, it is worth mentioning Pillan’s interest in FIDA-82 for several American countries, which is establishing talks between their respective leaders and those of the FACh, apart from the anecdote of the head of the Dominican Association who wanted to take over the two the IFAD shown prototypes in cash.

The pillar can be effectively used in three main types of missions. First and foremost, basic pilot training, a task for which it was actually designed. Second, for basic training in instrument flight. Finally, other military missions such as armed patrols, ground troop support, etc., for which attachment points have been provided for military cargo, including missiles, rockets and bombs of various types, and two machine guns.

In conclusion, I want to highlight that it complies with the FAR 23.333 and 23.337 standards of the North American FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), which include it in the aerobatic aircraft category. Something that showed in the flight developments that were carried out during the course of the 2nd International Air Show that I could personally appreciate, as well as the feeling of security and power along with great visibility and visual and manual control of the controls, during the flight, which I made as a package in Santiago de Chile.

Defense Magazine No. 52-53, August 1982, Javier de Mazarrasa

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