22 Sep 2010

Museum display fate awaits Skyhawks

9:01 am on 22 September 2010

The RNZAF's mothballed Skyhawk combat aircraft could be destined to become museum pieces.

A longstanding arrangement to sell the 17 planes is in danger of falling through unless a potential buyer, American firm Tactical Air Services, can seal the deal within the next two months. They are 45 years old.

US approval for the deal expires on Wednesday, but the Government believes the State Department will extend the deadline.

Prime Minister John Key says the planes could end up being given away for display purposes, with one possibly going to Australia.

Even if the Skyhawks could be sold, he says there would be a large cost in getting them up and running again.

The 17 aircraft were taken out of service in 2001 by the Labour government. Attempts to sell them have failed.

In 2001, the Ministry of Defence estimated scrapping the combat wing of the air force would save $870 million over 10 years, as well as avoiding the approximately $1 billion it would have cost to buy replacement aircraft.


Tactical Air Services, the prospective American buyer, says the sale can still go ahead.

TAS chief executive Larry Pearson says a deal is still on the table.

But the Defence Minister Wayne Mapp says if that is the case, the company needs to step up immediately.

Dr Mapp told Morning Report that while he understands it may be possible for Tactical Air Services to obtain an extension of their approval to import the aircraft, a credible deal had yet to be discussed.