Labour has hit out at a Defence Force decision to ditch its New Zealand training aircraft manufacturer and risk jobs by handing a $154 million contract to a United States competitor.
The Government on Monday announced it had selected Beechcraft to provide a new fleet of 11 high-performance training aircraft and simulators.
The T-6C single-engine turboprop aircraft would replace the New Zealand-built Pacific Aerospace CT-4E Airtrainers and the twin-engined turboprop Beechcraft King Air B200s.
The CT-4Es were due to reach the end of their service life in 2018 and the King Air B200s’ lease also expired that year.
But Labour’s defence spokesman Phil Goff said the Government should save taxpayer money and Kiwi jobs by sticking with Hamilton-based Pacific Aerospace, which supplies and maintains the current single engine CT-4E.
As it happens I was talking to a former RNZAF person about this yesterday and the answer is very simple.
The RNZAF wants the new planes to be digital rather than analog. All their other new planes are digital, and I don’t think anyone would argue that in 2014 one should be buying analog planes.
Sadly for Pacific Aerospace, they have to date only built analog planes. They have no experience or track record with digital planes.
So even putting aside what the respective costs may have been with Pacific Aerospace, the reality was the planes they have experience in making are not what are needed anymore.
And even if you get past any issues of price and experience, you then have the problems of parts if you go with the NZ company. Even if they could produce digital planes for RNZAF, it would be the only digital planes they have. This means they would not have the same capacity for spare parts and maintenance as another company that has produced hundreds of digital planes for other customers. So RNZAF decided the risks are too great to go Pacific Aerospace.
Note that this info doesn’t come from anyone political, but a former RNZAF officer.