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PM should fly Air NZ: NZ First

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 24/10/2016

Prime Minister John Key should consider chartering an Air New Zealand flight or buying a seat instead of replacing the broken down New Zealand Air Force plane he uses for international travel, New Zealand First says.

The use of two 23-year-old Boeing 757-200s have again come under scrutiny from deputy leader Ron Mark after one broke down en route to India where Mr Key is set to hold a number of high level meetings, including with his counterpart Narendra Modi.

The Boeing was scheduled for only brief stopover in Australia but developed mechanical problems in Townsville meaning Mr Key and his delegation was forced to stay the night and wait for a replacement plane.

It has been slated for replacement, but Mr Mark says the Defence Force shouldn't have to foot the bill.

"If the Prime Minister wants 'PM 1' then his own department should fund the $140 million it will cost for something like an Airbus A320 instead of the New Zealand Defence Force," he said.

"Alternatively, we have an award-winning state airline that can do that job by charter or by buying a seat like the rest of us."

Mr Mark said the plane flew just 571 flight hours between January 2013 and September 2015, a fifth of what a commercial plane would do.

"It sounds counter-intuitive, but aircraft are much easier to maintain if they're kept flying than sitting on the tarmac," he said, highlighting his concerns about commercial jets flying too few hours in military service.

It's not the first time in recent months the PM has had plane trouble.

One of the 757s was grounded for several hours in Laos last month after Mr Key attended the East Asia Summit.

The plane was flown to Guam for repairs while Mr Key attended the Pacific Islands Forum before returning to New Zealand.

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