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Ground Instructional in Pakistan

Ground Instructional in Pakistan

Written by & courtesy of Eddy de Kruijff and Fred Willemsen

Qasim is Pakistan's major army aviation base. The base accommodates five active flying units, including the VVIP-flight, as well as the Army Aviation School. In all there are six types of fixed-wing aircraft and six types of helicopters at Qasim from a wide variety of sources: France, Russia, China, the US and Pakistan itself. No. 30 squadron flies most fixed-wing aircraft (Chinese-built Y-12 light transport aircraft, Mushshak light trainer licence-built in Pakistan, Aero Commander and a Cessna 421).

The helicopters are flown by No. 8 squadron, which operates Alouette III and Lama helicopters as well as a number of fixed-wing Mushshaks, No.27 squadron has half a dozen Mi-17 Hip helicopters and No. 25 squadron flies most of the Pumas in Pakistan's inventory.



Above: Two Lamas are in the compound of the Engineering School. At least six Lamas were purchased via Romania. Others were supplied direct from France. The Lama is used by No.8 squadron in support of the Kashmir-based garrison, which operates at high altitudes in the Himalayas. Several Lamas have crashed, some with loss of life. Because of its sometimes hazardous operations, No. 8 squadron is the most decorated unit in the Army Aviation.


The VVIP Flight has three air-conditioned Pumas (the troops have to do without this luxury…) , a King Air 200 and a Citation V with a passive defence suite for the sole use of the President of Pakistan. That makes an interesting collection of aircraft and helicopters.

Left: SA330 Puma, used for VIP flights.

Engineering School

But interesting from a historic point of view is the collection of ground instructional airframes that the Army Aviation Engineering School EME keeps in a compound to the north of the airbase at the Centre Ordnance Aviation Depot. The School is commanded by Lt.Col. Obaid, who explains: -

"The school trains the future aircraft engineer in his trade. We also undertake schooling of qualified engineers to learn about new systems. In particular the new students make use of the ground instructional aircraft."

All those aircraft are kept in the open. The biggest is the Mi-8 helicopter that was withdrawn from service together with the other Mi-8's already in 1986. The Mi-17's that are currently in active service were delivered in 1996.


Two Lamas and an Alouette III that suffered a hard landing are also in the inventory.

Left: A sorry-looking Alouette III after a hard landing on a mountain slope, from which it was recovered as an underslung Puma load. Pakistan's Alouettes come from different sources: Aerospatiale (now Eurocopter) from France delivered 24. Additional IAR-316B's were also acquired from Romania.

One of the very first Mushshaks is there, one of the original fifteen MFI-17B's that were delivered from the SAAB factory direct to Pakistan in 1974. PAC Kamra, the state-owned aviation plant, has since produced some 162 Mushshaks from scratch.

Right: A dozen Bell 206B's were acquired in 1975, followed later by three civilian Jet Rangers III. This Bell 206B was replaced by a batch of Bell 206L's, which still serve the Army Aviation at Multan in two squadrons.

Also present is a Bell 206B; the Bell 206L is still in regular service. Surprisingly, the tail boom of a Soviet Mi-24 Hind is also present. It is whispered to have come from


Afghanistan! Pride of the fleet is a Cessna O-1 Bird Dog, the only aircraft that is kept in airworthy condition, although it is rarely flown according to LtCol Obaid. The 26 O-1A and 64 E models of the Bird Dog have been out of use since 1994. Some of them are still for sale to private owners.

Four types withdrawn

Pakistan's Army Aviation gained autonomy from the air force in 1958 and gained full corps status in 1977. Since it began in 1958 only four aircraft types have been withdrawn from use. Its initial inventory were a number of Auster Mk5 and Mk6 and O-1 Bird Dogs, which were then in the process of delivery.


Left: Cessna O-1A Bird Dog is kept in good condition at the gate of the Engineering School, even though the tyres are so porous that they deflate within a matter of hours.

"We don't bother with the tyres anymore; but we do keep it shiny as if new", says an engineer.

The Austers were soon considered inferior to the O-1 Bird Dog, moreover as an element of local pride came into the equation as Workshop 503 at Qasim (then still called Dhamial) produced 60 per cent of Bird Dog locally. It was still  designated L-19 locally at the time. None of the Austers have been preserved, but some of the O-1's have. One appears in the nearby Army Museum at Rawalpindi and another as gate guard to the Army Aviation Engineering School. The last is parked in front of the C/O's office at Qasim.

Another type that fails to live on is the Bell 47G, two of which can be found preserved at Qasim. One is the airbase gate guard and another is a monument at the Engineering School. Still another can be found at the Army Museum. The latest type to be withdrawn was the Mi-8 in 1986, which suffered from poor spares support. The change of the Mil plant in the former Soviet Union from a state company to a privately owned one was sufficient for Pakistani confidence to order the upgraded Mi-17 almost ten years later.


When the rotors only serve as an object of study, you might just as well take them off and put them on trestles in a school building. Already in 1968 were a dozen Mi-8's delivered to the Pakistan Army Aviation only to be withdrawn from use in 1986 when spares support had become erratic. Apparently, the Mi-8's basic design had been appealing: in 1996 the first six Mi-17VM helicopters were delivered, followed by another six a year later.

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