At last; they're sold; the Dominion-Post reports:
Aircraft from New Zealand's mothballed Air Combat Wing could be dogfighting with United States jets before the end of the year after finally receiving sale approval.The air force's fleet of Skyhawks have been collecting dust since they were grounded more than 10 years ago.It was announced in November that United States company JDI Holdings had signed a bargain deal worth $7.9 million for the eight remaining aircraft that have not already been given to museums.But the deal, including spare parts and engines, relied on approval from the US State Department. A previous deal with US aviation training provider Tactical Air Services fell through late in 2010 because of a delay in similar approval.Draken International, an operating arm of JDI Holdings, confirmed it had received approval to buy not only the Skyhawks but also nine of New Zealand's Aermacchi jet training aircraft.The Aermacchis were also decommissioned in 2001 but were regularly flown to keep them operational.Draken chief executive Jared Isaacman, one of the few civilian-trained pilots in the US authorised to fly Skyhawks, said the company received State Department approval a few months ago.He told The Dominion Post the company had also bid for the Aermacchis earlier this year in competition with several other firms.A team had been in New Zealand for the past two months working with the Aermacchis and would soon shift focus to the Skyhawks.It was hoped the aircraft would be in the US and operational by the end of the year, and would probably be used for training roles within the Defence Department.
The prolonged saga of the sale of the Skyhawks has been an abject failure that must be sheeted home to the previous government. That they have finally been sold for far, far below their value, and for even less than the cost of keeping them in storage wrapped in latex for ten years is nothing to be proud of.
Let us also remember that it was the Clark Labour government which disestablished the RNZAF's strike force capacity. From memory, it was not something which Labour actively campaigned upon, rather like the decision to abolish our links to the Privy Council and establish our own Supreme Court. It may have been tucked away somewhere in the fine print of a manifesto, but it is certainly not a policy that was the subject of public scrutiny.