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Prior to the eighties Chile possessed a decrepit fleet of military trainers obtained under the Mutual Defense Assistance Act. However, these trainers had become exceedingly difficult to repair following passage of a US arms embargo in 1976. The PA-28R-300 Pillán was developed by Piper Aircraft in the United States as a two-seat military trainer for assembly in Chile, based on a PA-32R fuselage with a new center-section and wing stressed for aerobatics. The first prototype designated XBT first flew at Lakeland on 6 March 1981 and was followed by a second prototype, designated YBT. The second prototype first flew on 31 August 1981 and was then delivered to Chile. The prototype XBT was delivered to Chile in January 1982 but was written off on 10 March 1982. Production of kits at Vero Beach Municipal Airport commenced with three pre-production kits which were delivered for assembly in Chile in 1982, Vero Beach then produced 120 kits for assembly in Chile for the Chilean and Spanish Air Force. The first production aircraft was delivered by ENAER to the Chilean Air Force Air Academy in August 1985. The Spanish aircraft were assembled in Spain by CASA.
Apart from a few turbine powered aircraft, all Pilláns were powered by a 300 hp (224 kW) Textron Lycoming AEIO-540-K1K5 six cylinder horizontally opposed piston engine.
In 1985 a turboprop variant was developed by ENAER as the T-35A Aucan. In early 1986 one of the piston-engined pre-production aircraft was sent to Soloy Aviation Solutions in the United States for modification to install a 420 shp Allison 250B-17D engine.