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Hercules upgrade delays cost 100 jobs in Blenheim

Tuesday 16th February 2010

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Air New Zealand's engineering subsidiary Safe Air is laying off close to a third of its workforce following indefinite delays in an upgrade project on the Royal New Zealand Air Force's fleet of C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.

The Canadian lead contractor, L-3/SPAR, has been grappling with unexpected difficulties in integrating the ageing planes' control systems with new generation software, and informed Safe Air in December that the prototype upgraded C-130 would be delayed "indefinitely".

Safe Air's involvement in the upgrade came through a jointly agreed contract with the Ministry of Defence and SPAR Aerospace in 2005. New staff had been hired and substantial investments in equipment and facilities were made ahead of the scheduled arrival of the first aircraft, in August 2008.

Despite efforts to reduce the impact of what is now an 18 month delay on the project, Safe Air had no choice but to reduce its 351 staff by 100 people or face "significant losses that would put the jobs of the remaining workforce in jeopardy", said Air New Zealand's group general manager for technical operations, Vanessa Stoddart.

As well as major structural refurbishments, the project included modifications to major avionic systems, including rewiring and installation of new AC/DC systems, a ‘glass’ flight deck, navigation and communications suites, night vision and APS241 radars, and updated autopilot systems.

Air New Zealand shares were trading unchanged at $1.32 after the announcement.

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