Nelson engineering development
In recent months Air New Zealand has beefed up its engineering presence at Nelson Airport. This site is now established for the maintenance and overhaul of an increasing number of turboprop airliners, and the company makes no secret of the fact that it is aiming high.
Air NZ’s Anna Cross states that the engineering facility at Nelson Airport was established to move towards being the “preferred turboprop maintenance and overhaul facility in Australasia”.
This seems a tall order, but for a number of reasons the airline could be on to a winner with this move. It has contracted with Air Caledonie, a domestic airline based in New Caledonia, to provide heavy maintenance for its fleet of four ATRs. At present Air Caledonie operates three ATR 72-500s and one ATR 42-500.
Air Caledonie was attracted to Nelson for this work because of New Caledonia’s proximity to New Zealand; the reasonable costs quoted for the work; the engineering capacity of the Nelson facility and the impressive skills of the workforce. Air NZ will carry out heavy maintenance and overhaul of all four Air Caledonie ATRs over the next 10 years.
This is the first contract this branch of Air NZ’s engineering has signed with an overseas company, and it is not expected to be the last. It makes sense for the ever-popular ATRs operated by small Pacific nations and even Australian companies to have this type of work carried out in Nelson.
Last year Air NZ announced the purchase of 15 new ATR 72-500s for its regional services, four of them as a result of forecasts of further growth in the regional services and the other 11 to replace most of its existing ATR 72-500 fleet.
The Nelson regional maintenance hub has been carefully planned by Air NZ. Currently it employs an engineering workforce of 187 at Nelson and anticipates a further 40 to 50 skilled engineering personnel when further contracts are signed with other airlines.
- Report by John King, photography by Air Nelson.
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