Safe Air to set up office at Ohakea

Safe Air is expected to hire 21 workers to maintain new military pilot training equipment bought by the Government, but the jobs will be at Ohakea, not Blenheim.

Safe Air chief executive Heather Deacon said yesterday the company, based at Marlborough Airport, would set up an office at Ohakea air force base, near Palmerston North, with 21 new jobs as subcontractors to Beechcraft, the company that had won the Government contract.

"It won't mean more jobs in Blenheim, but if we go ahead with it, people from here could relocate and the main centre usually ends up supporting more, so it is good news for Safe Air in the long term."

People who were made redundant from Safe Air last year would be eligible to apply for the new jobs, she said.

However, Ms Deacon said while the main contract was signed on Friday, the subcontracts had not been signed yet, so she could not comment further. It could be up to two months till those were signed.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said yesterday the Government had awarded a contract to deliver a new and more effective military pilot training system to Beechcraft Defense Company.

Beechcraft and associated companies, including Marlborough-based Safe Air, have won a $154 million package to provide ground simulators, classroom and computer based training packages to complement flying experience in turbo-prop T-6C aircraft.

Dr Coleman said the T-6C had a proven track record in service with other militaries, and met the Defence Force'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 a year over 30 years."

As part of the contract, eleven Beechcraft T-6C aircraft would be assembled in Wichita, Kansas.

Flight simulators and other ground based training devices would be installed at Ohakea by CAE Simulation (USA) as a subcontractor to Beechcraft. Maintenance and support for the aircraft and simulators would include subcontract support from CAE Australia and Safe Air Limited for the next 30 years.

Pilot training uses single-engined 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.

Cabinet agreed in November 2012 to modernise pilot training system with new aircraft, simulators, other training aids, and a new curriculum, Dr Coleman said.

The Marlborough Express