The Aermacchi MB 326 by blinkings ()
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The Aermacchi MB 326 first flew in 1957, and during a production run of nearly 25 years, a total of 776 airframes were constructed, including 502 under licence. This made the MB 326 the most-produced post-war Italian military aircraft. The MB 326H, called the Macchi in RAAF and Royal Australian Navy service, was ordered by the RAAF in August 1965 after it was decided there was a need for high-performance jet training to prepare pilots for the Dassault Mirage then entering service. This was part of a trend that developed in the 50s and 60s to implement an "all-through" jet training syllabus, with pilots going from ab initio to advanced training on jet aircraft.
Of a total of 97 Macchis operated by the RAAF, the first 20 were assembled in Australia from Italian production, with the remainder produced by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation (CAC) and Hawker de Havilland with an increasing level of local components. By aircraft A7-031, production aircraft contained approximately 85% local content. In addition, CAC also built the Macchi's Rolls Royce Viper turbojet engine under licence. The Macchi's main operator was No 2 Flying Training School (No 2 FTS), operating the type from 1970 until the final course on the type in 1991. In addition, the Macchi was operated by the Central Flying School (CFS) to train RAAF flying instructors and also in the lead-in fighter role by No 2 Operational Conversion Unit, No 5 Operational Training Unit, and Nos 25, 76, 77 and 79 Squadrons. The aircraft was replaced in this role by the British Aerospace Hawk from 2001. The Macchi was also flown by the RAAF's aerobatic team, the Roulettes, whose pilots and aircraft were drawn from CFS at RAAF Base East Sale.
Aircraft A7-001 was the first Macchi received by the RAAF, and first flew in Italy on 14 April 1967, before being shipped to Melbourne later that year. Handed over to the RAAF on 2 October 1967, the aircraft first served with CFS familiarising instructors with the new type . In August 1968, A7-001 was allocated to No 1 Advanced Flying Training School at RAAF Base Pearce, and was used to train some of the earliest RAAF Pilots Courses that flew the Macchi. Operating with the newly-renamed No 2 Flying Training School until August 1988, the aircraft changed 'jobs' in 1991 when it was transferred to No 76 Squadron at RAAF Base Williamtown to serve in the lead-in fighter training role. A7-001 carried out its final flight on 16 July 1999, with a total of 9403 hours on the airframe. A7-001 was then stored in Western Australia as a reserve aircraft until its transfer to the RAAF Museum in June 2000.
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