Aircraft painting demand

ANDREA FOX
Last updated 05:00 08/05/2012

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Large overseas narrow-body aircraft could be regularly flying into Hamilton in a couple of years for a paint and total makeover if the pace continues at the city's new $3 million Aviation Painting Services.

The four-month-old hi-tech and certified operation at the Ingram Road site of Hamilton International Airport has painted 15 turbo-prop passenger and commercial aircraft, light planes and helicopters since its first commission to paint Eagle Air B1900s black with silver fern livery.

The demand for the services of New Zealand's only purpose-built aviation painting facility has surprised its joint venture owners, who are now planning a multi-million dollar expansion by 2014 to take narrow body jets.

APS has had to turn away jobs to paint large aircraft, because its biggest temperature-controlled 32mx32m painting booth is not large enough.

The lost work goes to Australia.

Phil Hanrahan, a Hamilton businessman whose company Riverlea Interests has a 50:50 investment in APS with the Waikato Aviation Cluster, said to make the proposed stage two development pay, it would have to attract overseas aircraft.

The expansion could cost up to $10m and would probably involve additional investors, he said. Land next door has been earmarked for expansion.

More research was needed but the Hamilton Airport site had the advantage of not being as expensive to develop or operate as a venture in Sydney or Auckland.

APS has transformed two Eagle Air B1900s to black for Air New Zealand and has one more to finish, said general manager Phil Byrne, an engineer seconded from Field Air to set up the facility.

"Air New Zealand wanted to do the black planes over the holidays so we opened on Boxing Day and have been flat out since."

The creation of APS has provided new work and extra skills for up to 30 contractors from Te Awamutu-based company Fleet Image, who have been trained in aviation electrostatic processes and equipment, Byrne said.

The planners of APS, which was opened with the help of a grant from NZ Trade and Enterprise, budgeted for 50 "jobs" by the end of this year, its first in business. It has done 49 already, Byrne said. Jobs can be painting a wing or another aircraft part.

The operation is booked up until nearly the end of the year, he said.

The big painting booth can take up to eight aircraft at a time.

It has an 8mx32m hydraulic lifting door and can be heated to 60-70 degrees.

Booths are ventilated and sealed from utility areas to keep out dust and dirt.

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