New $154m deal for training military pilots likely to create 21 jobs at Ohakea

News from NZ Government
The Government has awarded the contract to deliver a new and more effective military pilot training system to Beechcraft Defense Company. As a result, it’s likely that 21 new Safe Air jobs will be created at Ohakea.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman has congratulated Beechcraft and associated companies including New Zealand based Safe Air Limited on being selected to supply the NZ Defence Force’s new pilot training capability.

“This modern, safe and reliable pilot training system will enable our military pilots to be trained to the highest standards, and is in line with the training systems used in Australia, the UK, the US and Canada,” says Dr Coleman.

“The $154 million package includes ground simulators, classroom and computer based training packages to complement practical flying experience in turbo-prop T-6C aircraft. The T-6C has a proven track record in service with other militaries, and meets the NZDF’s performance and safety standards.

“The new system is expected to be operational for the first trainee intake in early 2016. It is estimated it will produce up to 15 graduate pilots and 12 Qualifying Flying Instructors per year over the next 30 years.”

Eleven Beechcraft T-6C aircraft will be assembled in Wichita, Kansas. Flight simulators and other ground based training devices will be installed at Ohakea by CAE Simulation (USA) as a subcontractor to Beechcraft. Maintenance and support for the aircraft and simulators will include subcontract support from CAE Australia and New Zealand based Safe Air Limited for the next 30 years. Around 21 new jobs with Safe Air Limited are expected to be created in Ohakea.

Pilot training is currently conducted using the single engine CT-4E Airtrainers and the twin engined turbo-prop King Air B200s. The service life of the CT-4Es is due to end in 2018, and the King Air B200s lease expires in 2018.

In November 2012, Cabinet agreed there was a requirement to modernise the pilot training system through the use of military training aircraft, simulators, other training aids, and an updated curriculum.

“There was significant interest in the pilot training tender from parties in New Zealand and overseas, resulting in a strong and competitive tender process,” says Dr Coleman.

“The process was reviewed by an external auditor and the shortlisting of the two final tenderers was affirmed by the Ministry of Defence’s Acquisition Review Board which includes representatives from government agencies such as the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment.”

The Government is investing over $2 billion into new and upgraded aircraft and helicopters for the Air Force. Upgrades of C-130 Hercules and P-3 Orion aircraft continue, and all five of the AgustaWestland A109 training/light utility helicopters, and seven of the eight NH90 medium utility helicopters have arrived in New Zealand.



  1. Brett Parker, 27. January 2014, 16:29

    Good to see the RNZAF has finally been allowed to invest in turbo-prop training aircraft which Australia, the UK, USA and even Ireland have used for over 10 years- wonder if this choice will permit tactical training as well with the Army (that is, as close-air support)

  2. Guy, 28. January 2014, 6:47

    Except, of course, the enormous downside of this proposal, is that Pacific Aerospace, the New Zealand based maker of the previous aircraft that NZ used, hasn’t got the contract and will face immense financial hardship as a result. No support for local business there from the National government. The Pacific Aerospace deal was also many millions cheaper.

    Interestingly, the new Beechcraft planes will lend themselves better to pilots being trained for flying jet aircraft – of which the NZ Airforce has none. So, NZ will continue to pay for the training of pilots, and make it easier for them to leave the Airforce and go into either foreign forces or to go and fly commercial.

  3. Brett Parker, 28. January 2014, 11:09

    I have to correct you there. The RNZAF has two jet aircraft – the 757s, which have proved very useful as transports and medivacs. Ireland uses a very similar training aircraft (a Pilatus model), despite not having jet-strike aircraft, because it is essential to equip pilots with the skills to operate modern transport and maritime surveilance planes (all of which use turbo-props).
    Afaik, Pacific Aerospace has not sold a basic trainer to any air force for over ten years. Also, their CT-4 model is not a turbo-prop, and so this would limit their training suitability.


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