The United States Naval Test Pilot School (USNTPS) at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, has taken delivery of its Airborne Systems Training and Research Support (ASTARS) III aircraft, a new flying classroom.
ASTARS III is a tailored C-26A Metroliner equipped with military equipment and subsystems for students to familiarize themselves with the aircraft and its systems in a simulation lab before flying airborne for the first time, which increases the efficiency of flight time spent with instructors in the air. The USNTPS’ original ASTARS was based on a P-3 Orion; ASTARS II is a leased Saab 340 and the contract will end in fall 2018.
The C-26A is a former counter-narcotics aircraft. Its upgrade was a group effort between the USNTPS, AIRWorks, The Tactical Airlift, Adversary and Support Aircraft program office (PMA-207), and M7 Aerospace, a subsidiary of Elbit Systems of America, with the aircraft being modified in San Antonio, Texas.