Air New Zealand has announced that it has signed a conditional agreement for the sale of its aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), design and manufacturing subsidiary Safe Air to Airbus Group Australia Pacific.
Air New Zealand chief operations officer Bruce Parton stated that the airline had been exploring opportunities to secure a solid future for Safe Air for some time. “Our history with Safe Air spans more than four decades, and it is important to us that we ensure its success in the future,” said Parton. “Airbus Group is highly regarded in the aviation industry, and as a world-class military service provider is closely aligned with the services Safe Air undertakes.”
Safe Air’s main facility is in Blenheim, but the business also has staff based at RNZAF bases Ohakea and Whenuapai, as well as in Melbourne. The company has around 200 employees, and is responsible for RNZAF P-3K2 Orion and C-130H Hercules airframe, engine and propeller maintenance. Its significant propeller overhaul business also has as clients New Zealand and Australian regional airlines and the RAAF.
“Safe Air’s reputation, skill set and outlook are all strong and closely align with Airbus Group,” stated Airbus Group Australia Pacific managing director Dr Jens Goennemann. “We have worked with Safe Air in the past, and for us, bringing the company into Airbus strengthens our position and potential in New Zealand.”
It is not clear if the acquisition is aimed at supporting Airbus’s current bid to market the A400M airlifter as a replacement for the the RNZAF’s ageing C-130Hs. The prospects of that occuring may have firmed after Boeing announced last week the sale of four C-17s to Qatar, leaving just one unaccounted for “white tail” C-17 yet to find a customer. New Zealand had been considering acquiring two C-17s.
The Safe Air transaction is expected to be completed next month, and from July 1 Safe Air will become a “fully integrated” part of Airbus Group Australia Pacific, retaining its name, staff and operations in Blenheim, Ohakea, Auckland and Melbourne, Airbus said.
“As the outgoing managing director of Airbus Group Australia Pacific, this is the last item to cross off my list; to strengthen the base in New Zealand upon which our business can grow,” Goennemann said. “And as a relatively newly-confirmed Australian citizen I am delighted to have been able to play a part in the formation of this new trans-Tasman partnership.”