C-130 Hercules of the RNZAF (photo : RNZAF)
Hercules Upgrade Delays Cost 100 Jobs in BlenheimAir New Zealand Ltd.’s engineering subsidiary Safe Air is laying off close to a third of its workforce following indefinite delays in an upgrade project on the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s fleet of C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.
The Canadian lead contractor, L-3/SPAR, has been grappling with unexpected difficulties in integrating the ageing planes’ control systems with new generation software, and informed Safe Air in December that the prototype upgraded C-130 would be delayed “indefinitely”.
Safe Air’s involvement in the upgrade came through a jointly agreed contract with the Ministry of Defence and SPAR Aerospace in 2005. New staff had been hired and substantial investments in equipment and facilities were made ahead of the scheduled arrival of the first aircraft, in August 2008.
Despite efforts to reduce the impact of what is now an 18 month delay on the project, Safe Air had no choice but to reduce its 351 staff by 100 people or face “significant losses that would put the jobs of the remaining workforce in jeopardy”, said Air New Zealand’s group general manager for technical operations, Vanessa Stoddart.
As well as major structural refurbishments, the project included modifications to major avionic systems, including rewiring and installation of new AC/DC systems, a ‘glass’ flight deck, navigation and communications suites, night vision and APS241 radars, and updated autopilot systems.
Air New Zealand shares were trading unchanged at $1.32 after the announcement.
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C-130 Hercules Upgrade Contract Signed
15 Desember 2004New Zealand's C-130 Hercules aircraft fleet is about to get a 15-year life extending upgrade with much of the actual conversion work being completed in New Zealand.
The $226 million project contract was signed on Tuesday with suppliers L-3 Communications Spar Airspace. Defence Minister Mark Burton said that this was another significant step in re-equipping all three services of the NZDF.
"Since the 2002 release of the Defence Long-Term Development Plan, 22 major re-equipment projects have been advanced. They include investments in seven new purpose-built naval vessels, a $352 million upgrade of our P-3 Orion fleet, the purchase of two 757-200 jet aircraft to replace our ageing 727s, and the recent acquisition of a new fleet of Light Operational Vehicles.
"Our Hercules fleet is the workhorse of the Air Force, used for a wide range of military airlift tasks and civilian agency requirements. The C-130s provide support to deployed forces, transporting both personnel and/or large freight items. They can operate in conflict areas and on short and poorly prepared airfields. The C-130 fleet also supports counter-terrorism operations undertaken by the Police and the New Zealand Defence Force, as well as providing Antarctic supply flights and support disaster relief missions."
Mark Burton noted that the C-130 life extension and the C-130 communications and navigation equipment would both be upgraded together, with the two projects running in parallel to maximise efficiency and cost effectiveness.
Modification work is scheduled to begin in early 2006 with the first aircraft being modified at L-3 Spar's facility in Edmonton, Canada and the second to fifth aircraft upgraded in Blenheim at Safe Air Ltd. The life extension project will include the replacement of structural components in the wing and aircraft fuselage to manage fatigue, as well as upgrades to the mechanical and electrical systems. The communications and navigation upgrade will ensure the aircraft are interoperable with our Defence and security partners. The upgrades also include ground-based support and training facilities.
"This government has been committed from day one to building a modern, sustainable, well-equipped Defence Force, and this investment in our C-130 fleet is another clear example of that commitment. This major upgrade will extend the life of the aircraft, increase the reliability and availability of the fleet, and improve and modernise the C-130s communications and navigation systems," said Mark Burton.
Questions and answers about the C-130 Hercules
What do the C-130 Hercules do?
The C-130 Hercules are used for a wide range of military airlift tasks and to support civilian agency requirements. They provide support to deployed forces, transporting both personnel and/or large freight items. They can operate in threat areas and on short and poorly prepared airfields. The C-130 fleet supports counter-terrorism operations undertaken by the Police and the New Zealand Defence Force, as well as providing Antarctic supply flights and support disaster relief missions.
Why extend the life of the Hercules?
The C-130 fleet is 38 years old, with obsolete systems that are becoming difficult to support. Some of the structural elements, primarily in the wings, are approaching the end of their working lives. All these issues have at times had an impact on the aircrafts' availability and operational readiness. In 2001 Defence contracted independent contractor Marshalls of Cambridge Aerospace to conduct a Life-of-Type Study (LOTS) on the feasibility and cost of upgrading the C-130 fleet to extend its service life and improve availability and reliability. The LOTS concluded that a 15-year life extension was feasible, for a reasonable cost, and would significantly improve the availability and reliability of the fleet.
What does the project include?
It is a combination of two projects on the "Defence Long-Term Development Plan" (LTDP): the C-130 Life Extension and the C-130 Communications and Navigation Systems Upgrade. These two projects are closely related and are being completed together to maximise efficiency and reduce project complexity, risk, and cost.
The project comprises:
· Fatigue improvement modification: A number of structural components in the wing and aircraft fuselage will be replaced. In addition, other modifications will improve the ability to manage structural fatigue.
· Mechanical and electrical systems upgrade: Reliability improvement modifications will be carried out to the Hercules electrical system, auxiliary power unit, environmental control unit, and engines.
· Communications: Existing internal communications, radio, and encryption equipment will be replaced with modern digital systems that transfer voice and data.
· Flight deck digitisation: Modern digital navigation equipment will be installed to meet future changes to air traffic management regulations, and
· Flight deck trainer: This will provide a ground training facility for the flight deck crew, and will significantly enhance the level of preparedness and improve crew availability.
What is the timeframe for the upgrade?
Upgrading the Hercules is a complex process. The design, development, installation, testing and certification of the prototype aircraft will take nearly three years.
Modification work on the first aircraft will commence in early 2006, with delivery scheduled for late 2007. The first aircraft will be modified at L-3 Spar's facility in Edmonton, Canada. The second to fifth aircraft will be upgraded in Blenheim at Safe Air Ltd. The fifth aircraft is scheduled for completion in 2010.
What will be the implications of having aircraft out of service?
Sufficient aircraft will be available to meet essential task requirements.
Is there any commonality with the Orion Upgrade?
Although the communications and navigations systems will be upgraded on both the Orion and C-130 Hercules, the nature of the upgrades has limited the opportunity for common equipment. Where possible, however, common equipment has been selected for both aircraft.
What will the C-130 project cost?
The cost of the project (the life extension and communications & navigation upgrade) approved by Cabinet is NZ$226 million. This is well within the budgeted figure in the Defence Long Term Development Plan.
Will the upgraded Hercules be interoperable with our security partners?
Yes. The upgraded communications and navigation systems will ensure that the aircraft are interoperable with our security partners.
What jobs will the project create for New Zealand Industry?
L-3 Spar Aerospace intends to make extensive use of Safe Air Limited for upgrades on the second to fifth aircraft. Safe Air Ltd is also involved in the P3 Systems Upgrade project.