16 November 2011
Decommissioned Skyhawks at Woodbourne Airbase. (photo : Stuff/Marlborough Express)
The Government may finally get some money out of the long-stalled sale of its mothballed air combat aircraft.
A US company, JDI Holdings, has bought the last eight of its mothballed Skyhawk fighter bombers for $7.9 million and says it is planning to use them for aerial displays and for US Defence Department contracts.
JDI has paid a $1m deposit but the deal, which includes spare engines and parts, depends on approval by the US government.
The other nine Skyhawks, which have been parked up since they were grounded and put up for sale a decade ago, have gone to museums.
Defence Minister Wayne Mapp said the last of its Aermacchi and Strikemaster jet trainers are also going to aviation museums around New Zealand.
''This is the resolution of what has been a long process,'' Mapp said. It is expected that JDI Holdings will take delivery of the planes within six months.
The price for the seven Skyhawks is well short of the $155m offered for all the jets by a US pilot training company which was never able to conclude the deal.
It is also less than $9.4m spent by the air force keeping the aircraft in storage since they were grounded in 2001 when the Government decided to disband its air combat wing, rather than buy new fighter jets.
Mapp said the jets were an important part of New Zealand's aviation history and they remaining aircraft would make fine museum exhibits.
The Aermacchis will go to six aviation museums, with a further three museums still to confirm their acceptance while some will stay at the RNZAF's ground training wing in Woodbourne and may be used as non-flying training aids.