July 12, 2012
Credit: Credit: Airbus Military
SINGAPORE — Qantas Defence Services (QDS) is hoping it can secure new contracts to help make up for the loss of work it has incurred from the recent closure of its Airbus Military A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) production line and a government decision to retire the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) fleet of Lockheed Martin C-130Hs.
The Australian government recently announced that the RAAF’s eight C-130Hs, which QDS has been maintaining at Richmond Air Base, are to be retired in December. QDS is the defense services, maintenance and engineering arm of Qantas Airways. It will start winding down its involvement with the C-130Hs starting July 13, QDS head Scott Harris told Aviation Week at the Military Airlift Asia-Pacific conference here this week. The RAAF has a total of 12 C-130Hs, but four have already been parked for some time, so only eight are operational.
Canberra has announced that four of the 12 aircraft will be given to Indonesia. Harris says QDS is hoping to work on those four prior to their handover.
QDS’s main facility is at Brisbane Airport, where it has been using one of the hangars to convert Airbus A330s into A330MRTTs for the RAAF. QDS had a contract to convert four of the RAAF’s five A330s into MRTTs, but it has finished work on the fourth and has no follow-on orders. Harris says the fourth A330MRTT left the Brisbane facility on July 10, and from there it was flown to Airbus Military in Spain for testing. Once those tests are completed, Airbus will deliver it to the RAAF.
Airbus Military had been pushing the Australian government to order an additional A330MRTT so the QDS line could continue production, but this came to nothing because the government did not allocate additional funds. f Airbus Military is currently competing against Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries to provide six tankers to Singapore’s air force. QDS is hoping that if Singapore chooses the A330MRTT, QDS will be selected to do the conversion work.
However, the fact that the A330MRTT line is temporarily closed means QDS has lost some workers. Harris says there were 119 contract employees involved in the A330MRTT program in Brisbane, and 70 have already left to work in Australia’s mining industry. But he says QDS has retained these workers’ contact details, so if it does secure another order for A330MRTTs, they can be called back.
The hangar in Brisbane where the A330MRTTs were made is being converted into an aircraft maintenance hangar, Harris says. Qantas Airways is likely to give QDS some overflow work on the airline’s Boeing 737 commercial aircraft, he adds. Qantas recently announced it was closing its Melbourne maintenance facility, where it had been conducting heavy maintenance checks on 737s.
QDS, meanwhile, has teamed up with Elbit Systems and KBR to compete for the Australian Defense Force’s Air 9000 Phase 7 program, which involves providing and maintaining training helicopters.
Harris says QDS has put in a bid to provide line maintenance in New Zealand for the Royal New Zealand Air Force’s two Boeing 757 VIP aircraft. He says Singapore Technologies Aerospace already has the heavy maintenance contract, but QDS is offering to employ 34 New Zealanders to carry out the 757 line maintenance.