About the Tucano T1


The Tucano T.Mk 1 provides basic fast jet training (BFJT) to RAF and RN aircrew on their training pathway to frontline fast jet aircraft.  It is flown by 72(R) Sqn with No. 1 Flying Training School (FTS), at Royal Air Force Linton-on-Ouse.


The Tucano T1 combines the economy of turboprop power with jet-like handling and is capable of providing a full range of aircrew training.  Formation flying, low-level navigation, poor weather flying and aerobatic handling are taught on 72(R) Sqn, taking advantage of the aircraft’s excellent endurance to maximise sortie utility.  From its base in North Yorkshire, The Tucano is able to fly training sorties as far away as Wales and central Scotland, finding the most suitable weather and taking advantage of varied training environments.

Tucano Diamond Nine Fly-by over RAF Cranwell showing two aircraft in close-up.
Tucano fly-by over RAF Cranwell.
Image by: Geoff Lee

Type history

The search to replace the Cessna T-37 in US service ultimately led, via a rather tortuous route, to the Beechcraft T-6C Texan II, the type scheduled to replace the Tucano in the BJFT role.  Ironically, it was the wider T-37 replacement market that also spurred Brazil’s Embraer into developing the EMB-312 Tucano, designed against a Força Aérea Brasiliera (FAB, Brazilian Air Force) requirement and first flown on August 16, 1980.

The FAB took its first example in September 1983 and subsequently amassed a sizeable fleet, latterly including the larger and considerably more powerful EMB-314 Super Tucano, a next-generation turboprop trainer that has also seen extensive combat use in the light attack and air-to-air roles.  Among its export successes, the Tucano received a large order from France, which installed its own avionics and, most importantly, the Royal Air Force.

Contemporary RAF basic fast jet training was performed on the Hunting Jet Provost, which had entered service in the 1950s and introduced jet power and a tricycle undercarriage to the basic training regime.  Almost three decades later, the Tucano made for a radical change, with its turboprop power and tandem, rather than side-by-side seating.  Indeed, it was the first tandemseat RAF basic trainer to enter service since the de Havilland Canada Chipmunk of 1950.

Various changes were made to the base machine and in order to meet British requirements in the event of a low-level birdstrike the Tucano’s canopy was modified; at the same time, it was reprofiled to be closer to that of the Hawk.  It was also discovered that the Tucano’s climb rate on the 750hp of its PT6A-25C turboprop was insufficient and the type was re-engined with the considerably more powerful Garrett (now Honeywell) TPE331.  Embraer modified one aircraft with the new engine in Brazil, supplying it to Shorts of Belfast in 1986 as a pattern airframe for the 130 licence-built aircraft that followed for the RAF.

Shorts flew the first Tucano T.Mk 1 on December 30, 1986 and the type entered service with the Central Flying School at RAF Scampton, for trials, in June 1988.  The first Tucano ab initio course began at RAF Church Fenton with 7 FTS in December 1989.  Today, students come to the Tucano from the Tutor and progress onto the Hawk T2, but from 2019 the Tucano will be replaced and the fast jet training progression will be Prefect, Texan II, Hawk T2. 

Header image by Geoff Lee

Flying with


Shorts Tucano T.Mk 1:

  • Powerplant: one 1,150shp Honeywell TPE331-12B turboprop engine
  • Length: 32ft 4¼in (9.86m)
  • Height: 11ft 1¾in (3.40m)
  • Wingspan: 37ft (11.28m)
  • Wing area: 208sqft (19.33m2)
  • Maximum take-off weight: 6,470lb (2,935kg)
  • Maximum level speed at: 10,000ft 277kt (513km/h)
  • Maximum rate of climb at sea level: 3,270ft/min (997m/min) Range 954nm (1,767km)
  • Maximum altitude: 25,000ft