First new training planes touch down
The first two planes in Ohakea Air Force Base's new $154.6 million pilot training upgrade have arrived.
The two Beechcraft T-6C Texan II, all the way from Wichita, Kansas in the United States, were the first of 11 such planes to land at their new home at Ohakea Air Force Base yesterday.
The planes will become the new pilot training aircraft at the base from 2016, replacing the current fleet of CT-4E airtrainers.
The multimillion-dollar training package also includes two flight simulators and 12 avionics desktop trainers.
Yesterday's aircraft made the Whenuapai to Ohakea trip, the last leg of their 20-part journey from the United States, with two passengers, Defence Secretary Helene Quilter, and Pilot Officer Nicole Brooke, who is about to graduate from the Wings training course at Ohakea.
Quilter, who later admitted being nervous of heights, climbed out of the back of the aircraft beaming, while Brooke, who flew the plane the majority of the way down, said it was "a massive step up".
The planes were commissioned seven months ago and offered a "new era of pilot training capability", Quilter said.
Purpose built for military training, the new T-6C aircraft feature significant advancements on the current analogue air trainers, featuring digital displays, ejection seats, collision-avoidance and ground awareness warning systems, a pressurised cockpit and personal locator beacons for each pilot.
They have a maximum speed of 586kph, whereas the CT-4E's is 386kph. The 13 CT-4E air trainers, which are leased, will be returned.
The new aircraft are being delivered by the manufacturer, Beechcraft Defence Company, and will be handed over to the defence force on October 31, after the completion of maintenance training in New Zealand and pilot conversion courses in the United States.
Seven of the new aircraft are expected to be delivered to Ohakea by the end of the year, with the remaining aircraft to be delivered by the middle of next year. Once established, the Texan aircraft are expected to remain in service with the air force for 30 years.