Colonels, captains mark plane handover
Under a cerulean sky the formalities of an aircraft sale were made real, marking a return to the skies for a Waikato design after turbulent times.
With two Papua New Guinean Colonels, an Australian air force captain, the CEO of NZSkydive Ltd (NZSL) and a rubber stamp it was official. Papua New Guinea had taken delivery of their brandnew Hamilton built PAC750Xl.
This is the first example to be built at the Hamilton facility since Pacific Aerospace was liquidated and sold to NZSL in 2021.
The deal was the culmination of three years of diplomatic and commercial negotiations said Group Captain and director of Australia’s PNG Sovereign Air Capability programme, Steve Fielder who oversaw the purchase of the aircraft by Australia on PNG’s behalf.
‘‘When the paper work weighs as much as the aircraft, it’s good to go,’’ Fielder said.
‘‘Having the ADF and PNGDF as our first customers has been a huge inspiration for everyone at our company,’’ said NZSL CEO Stephen Burrows.
The Papua New Guinea government has received much in the way of recent support from the Australian government.
With one Guardian class patrol vessels delivered, and two more on order, the Papua New Guinean government have made a marked turn south to Canberra as regional conflicts like that in neighbouring Indonesian West Papua simmer.
Described as a ‘‘bespoke’’ and ‘‘hand made’’ solution to the challenging flying conditions of Papua New Guinea’s infamous highlands, the aircraft is configured primarily for carrying cargo.
With a large, rear roller door and three passenger seats fitted in the version on display yesterday, the single engine turboprop will provide the Air Operations Element with the ability to land fully loaded within 166m, even on unprepared runways.
Sporting the Kumul (Bird of Paradise) on the roundel at the rear of the fuselage the plane, which took 24 weeks and 10,000 man-hours to assemble, would in the coming weeks make the nearly 5000km trip to Port Moresby via Lord Howe Island and mainland Australia.
The tribulations of the liquidation period have since been overcome and after a rigorous CAA certification process the company is able to design, build and export aircraft once more, says Burrows.
The only aircraft manufacturer left in the country, the company which employs 50 people is ‘‘trying to run before we walk,’’ said sales and commercial manager Jacqueline van Poeteren.
Producing five examples a year that retail for between $2.5-3USD million van Poeteren explained that the demand for twenty-one-year-old design remains solid, with the Hamilton built aircraft flying in 52 countries.
The planes that roll out of the hangar at the northern end of the airport are 95% built on site, save avionics, the propeller and the Canadian made turbine engine.
Burrows said: ‘‘to see the first aircraft roll out of the hangar and fly to its new mission will fill everyone with pride.’’
Colonel Tony Aseavu Papua New Guinea Defence Force’s (PNGDF) defence adviser in New Zealand was on hand to seal the deal with his equivalent in Australia, Colonel Siale Diro
Diro told of a recent test flight on which the 750Xl, replete with PNGDF markings, landed at the beachside airstrip in Raglan much to amusement of some locals.
‘‘All the locals were wondering what we were doing. One young man in a pram was waving. The area is just beautiful out there,’’ he said.
Waikato District Deputy Mayor Carolyn Eyre, half in jest, told Diro to beware: ‘‘sometimes there are dogs on the runway.’’
Familiar with the occasionally farmyard like scenes on the runways of the PNG highlands, Diro chuckled.
‘‘And sometimes we have chickens on ours.’’