26 Oct 2016

Faulty switch blamed for PM's plane delay

9:13 pm on 26 October 2016

The Prime Minister has received a state welcome in India after a faulty cockpit switch caused two failed take-offs that delayed his delegation.

Prime Minister John Key inspects troops at the Indian Presidential Residence in New Delhi on 26 October 2016.

Prime Minister John Key inspects troops at the Indian Presidential Residence in New Delhi. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

John Key was given the ceremonial welcome at the presidential residence in New Delhi. India laid out the red carpet for Mr Key, who was greeted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

A military band played both national anthems, before Mr Key inspected India's troops.

He said he was looking to grow and develop New Zealand's relationship with India, whose issues of primary interest included admission to the nuclear suppliers' group.

Mr Key then headed into talks with Mr Modi. He was expected to later lay a wreath at the Ghandi Memorial.

Meanwhile, a faulty switch in the cockpit of a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) plane was being blamed for delaying the delegation's trip and causing havoc with its schedule.

Mr Key and his 80-strong delegation had to spend the night in Queensland, after the RNZAF Boeing 757 carrying them broke down during its stopover in Australia.

A replacement was eventually sent to Townsville to take Mr Key and his delegation to India, but they arrived a day late and were forced to cancel the Mumbai leg of the trip.

Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757s in Townsville.

A second RNZAF Boeing 757-200 was sent to Townsville to take the delegation to India. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

The New Zealand Defence Force said in a statement that an investigation by technicians had found the faulty switch illuminated a cockpit warning related to the aircraft's speed brakes, or spoilers, leading the pilots to believe the aircraft was not fit to fly.

The Defence Force said while the system on the Boeing 757-200 was reset in accordance with the manufacturer's procedures, the fault occurred again during a second attempt at take-off.

"This fault to the warning system is not a regular occurrence and is unrelated to the amount of flying the aircraft has completed.

"Technicians are working to make the original aircraft serviceable," the statement said.

The Prime Minister used the 757s four times in 2014, five times in 2015 and six times in 2016.

The Defence Force has been considering options for replacing the current tactical and strategic airlift fleets - the Boeing 757s and C-130 Hercules.

The Future Air Mobility Capability project was expected to deliver new aircraft to the Defence Force during the early to mid-2020s.

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