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Airways Corp ally muddies the waters

By Michele Simpson

Friday 6th October 2000

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SYSTEM VIRTUE: Lockheed Martin air traffic management
Airways Corporation partner Lockheed Martin has denied its air traffic management division is up for sale despite the global company's plans to divest its aerospace businesses.

Lockheed Martin sold Airways Corporation the $30 million Skyline air traffic management system in May, entangling the Crown entity in a political controversy relating to the contract not being tendered and alleged kickbacks for Airways executives.

In July the auditor-general cleared Airways' bosses of any wrongdoing after Airways signed up with Lockheed Martin.

Concern is mounting that the New Zealand public may not have been told the full story when Lockheed Martin was given the contract to supply Airways Corporation with the new Skyline system. A joint contract between Lockheed Martin and Airways Corporation to bid for the UK's air services is not a sure thing and this year Lockheed has selling off some of its aerospace divisions.

This month the US Justice Department asked for more information on the proposed sale of Lockheed Martin's Aerospace Electronics Systems unit to BAe Systems North America.

A spokesman from Lockheed Martin's Maryland headquarters, Peter Harrigan, said the sale did not include Lockheed's air traffic management division that went into partnership with Airways Corporation in a bid for the British national air traffic services (Nats).

Lockheed Martin has made no secret this year that it plans to consolidate its divisions to better reflect its core activities in weapons.

The company is looking to streamline its businesses by selling off some aerospace and control-system divisions.

But Mr Harrigan said as far as he was aware there were no plans to sell off air traffic management - one of the company's more low profile operations.

Disgruntled tenderers for New Zealand's air traffic management system say Lockheed Martin threw Airways Corporation a curve ball when it sold the barely tested Skyline system.

"The New Zealand public was sold on [Skyline] in a very good spin," one business involved in the tender said.

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