Wanaka: Warbirds Over Wanaka Community Trust board member Brett Nicholls has confirmed he has sold his two BAC Strikemaster Jets to Las Vegas-based company, Blue Air Training.
The ‘Bluntys’ performed for the final time in New Zealand at the Classic Flyer’s airshow in Tauranga last weekend.
The Strikemasters were both at the 2016 Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow teaming up with two Vampires to put on an impressive display of jet formation flying.
Brett Nicholls tells us why he ended up parting ways with the ex-RNZAF jets:
“The decision to sell was not taken lightly, however it has to be acknowledged that the landscape for Strikemaster operations has changed significantly over the last few months which had the potential to drastically increase the maintenance costs of the aircraft and the length of time each aircraft would be out of the air.
Blue Air Training is a company which uses both Jet Provosts and Strikemasters in the Close Air Support (CAS) role to service contracts with the US military. They have a number of operational bases throughout the United States and are, seemingly, one of the big close air support contractors to the US military. I understand Blue Air Training has eight Strikemasters and a significant inventory of spares – with my two, they will have four ex RNZAF Strikemasters.
It came to light in the fourth quarter of last year that this company had purchased all Strikemaster and Jet Provost spares from Australia (our main source of spare parts) and they have an extremely close relationship with a company in the UK which has the other significant inventory of Strikemaster spare parts. Obviously, with the reduction in spare part availability it meant that running a Pt 115 operation was going to be increasingly difficult and significantly more costly.
When I learned about the purchase of the spares package by Blue Air Training, I started to discuss with them Strikemaster operations and they expressed a keen interest in getting both my aircraft and my significant spare parts package into their operation. To be honest, I was surprised at the swiftness of the deal offered, but Blue Air Training have been very upfront on what they want and that they will look after the Strikemasters in Las Vegas.
I understand that some will view this decision quite negatively, all I can say it that the cost of operating a Strikemaster jet is quite frankly “eye-watering” and given that these costs are only going to increase, potentially significantly, then I had to weigh up my options. My heart told me to keep the Strikemasters, but my head told me to take the offer, which I did.
I would like to thank the Strikemaster team for all their support over the years – Dave, Mark, Dean, Heather, Shooter, Paul and the Pioneer team. It has been fun.”