Air force may send pilots to Australia for training

Last updated 05:00 08/01/2011

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Kiwi pilots will probably go to Australia for fast-jet training as the Government rushes to fill a 10-year-old hole in the air force left by the scrapped Aermacchis.

Defence Minister Wayne Mapp confirmed this week that the 17 Aermacchi jets could not be returned to service.

He said yesterday that New Zealand had missed out on tens of million of dollars, and years of pilot training, as a result.

Along with 17 mothballed Skyhawks, the decision to permanently decommission the jets meant the air force faced a future with "a clear gap" in its resources.

Pilots required to fly Hercules and Orion aircraft could only train in much smaller Beech and CT-4E Airtrainer planes.

"There is a hole and the hole could be filled in a variety of ways," Dr Mapp said. "We could do [an aircraft] lease deal, we could do a [training] deal with Australia, which obviously has some attractions, and we're looking at those options right now."

The Australian air force fleet includes F18 and F111 jets. Dr Mapp said officials were working on a plan for Kiwi pilots to have training time in the Australian jets.

The Cabinet had supported the bid, but there could also be leases taken out on new training aircraft.

"I think you are probably talking about a two-stage approach," Dr Mapp said.

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- The Dominion Post

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